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Bowles v. Grant Trucking, LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 6, 2019

BARRY BOWLES, Plaintiff,
v.
GRANT TRUCKING, LLC; DAVE GRANT HAY, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Dee Benson, United States District Judge.

         Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 56.) The motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and the court has considered the facts and arguments set forth in those filings. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the United States District Court for the District of Utah Rules of Practice, the Court elects to determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda and finds that oral argument would not be helpful or necessary. DUCivR 7-1(f).

         Factual Background

         This case involves allegations of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (“ADA”). The ADA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against disabled persons. In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff referred to Defendants Grant Trucking, LLC (“Grant Trucking”) and Dave Grant Hay, Inc. (“DGHI”) collectively as his employer. (Compl. at ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiff provided little support in the Complaint for this assertion, alleging only that Defendants “share the same principals, office location, and employees[.]” (Compl. at ¶ 2.)

         Grant Trucking is a Utah limited liability company. (Compl. at ¶ 2.) DGHI is a Utah corporation and is the sole member of Grant Trucking. (Id.) The two share the same principal place of business, and their registered agents share the same address. (Id.) While the companies operate side-by-side on a 40-acre parcel, they maintain separate financial records, assets, and payroll records. (Dkt. No. 60, Exh. A.)

         Plaintiff has identified fewer than fifteen employees, including Plaintiff, who worked at the Grant Trucking site and received paychecks from Grant Trucking during the relevant time period. Plaintiff has also identified several other individuals who worked for and received paychecks from DGHI (or who maintained titles as officers and/or directors of DGHI) during the relevant time period, and has argued that those individuals also performed work for Grant Trucking and were, as such, jointly employed by Grant Trucking during the relevant time period.

         Procedural History

         On or about November 12, 2014, Plaintiff sent correspondence to the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) indicating that he believed his former employer, Grant Trucking, was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Compl. at ¶ 6, Exh. 1.) On or about December 18, 2014, the DOJ forwarded Plaintiff's correspondence to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), copying Plaintiff, and informing the EEOC that “complainant alleges actions that may constitute discrimination on the basis of disability by the (sic) Grant Trucking.” (Id.)

         After Plaintiff obtained his current counsel, on July 3, 2015, the EEOC requested that Plaintiff complete a “new” Charge of Discrimination. (Compl. at ¶ 7.) In that Charge, Plaintiff named only one entity as his employer: “Grant Trucking.”. (Dkt. No. 31-1, Exh. B.) Plaintiff understood the name of his employer to be Grant Trucking because “that was the name on [his] pay stubs and the name printed on the side of the dump truck [he] drove.” (Dkt. No. 35-5.) Plaintiff did not refer to any other entity either in the employer section of the charge or the particulars of his complaint. (Id.)

         Grant Trucking filed a written response to Plaintiff's Charge of Discrimination on October 1, 2015. (Dkt. No. 35-6.) Grant Trucking's first legal argument in that response was that it was not a covered entity during Plaintiff's employment because it never had fifteen or more employees. (Id. at 5.) No. other respondent made any filing or appearance during the EEOC investigation process. Plaintiff never attempted to amend his Charge to add any new respondents, nor did he indicate to Grant Trucking or the EEOC that he intended to do so.

         On September 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, naming Grant Trucking and Grant Transportation Services, Inc.[1] as Defendants. (Dkt. No. 2.) Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint on various grounds, including that Plaintiff's sole employer, Grant Trucking, did not meet the 15-employee threshold requirement to subject it to liability under the ADA. (Dkt. No. 5.) Plaintiff then filed a First Amended Complaint on August 17, 2017, adding DGHI as a third Defendant. (Dkt. No. 29.)

         On September 22, 2017, DGHI moved for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) on the basis that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to it. (Dkt. No. 31.) The court granted DGHI's motion, ruling that “there [was] not a sufficient identity of interest between Grant Trucking, LLC and DGHI to satisfy the notice and conciliation purposes of administrative exhaustion under the ADA” and that Plaintiff “failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to DGHI.” (Dkt. No. 44.) Accordingly, Grant Trucking is the only remaining Defendant in this action.

         Discussion

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits the entry of summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The court must “examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Applied Genetics Int'l, Inc. v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir. 1990). So long as the factual record is sufficiently developed, ...


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