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Bracey v. Lancaster Foods LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 12, 2019

MICHAEL BRACEY, Plaintiff,
v.
LANCASTER FOODS LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises from the claim of alleged employment discrimination by Plaintiff Michael Bracey ("Plaintiff or "Bracey") against Defendant Lancaster Foods LLC ("Defendant" or "Lancaster"). On March 30, 2018, this Court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration and dismissed Plaintiffs Complaint. (ECF Nos. 30, 31.) Now pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 32); and Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b) of the' Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 33). The submission has been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, -Plaintiffs Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 33) is DENIED. This Court will STAY Defendant's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (ECF No. 32) pending the resolution of this case on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case have been previously discussed in a Memorandum Opinion of this Court and are briefly addressed herein. Bracey v. Lancaster Foods, LLC, RDB-17-1826, 2018 WL 1570239 (D. Md. March 30, 2018). This case concerns Lancaster's alleged violations of the American Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA"), the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act ("MFEPA"). In his Amended Complaint, Bracey alleges that he began working for Lancaster in 2008 as a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Class "A" Driver. (ECF No. 17, at 1.) Prior to being hired by Lancaster, Bracey entered into an arbitration agreement with the company (the "Agreement"). (Id. at ¶ 71.) Bracey alleges that he became a Yard Jockey in 2010, a job position which the Amended Complaint vaguely describes as "requiring] him to move products from the warehouse to other locations." (Id. at 1.)

         On August 11, 2014, while employed as a Yard Jockey, Bracey suffered a work-related injury to his leg. (ECF No. 17 at ¶¶ 11-12.) Bracey returned to work on February 15, 2015 on light duty after undergoing surgeries and physical therapy over a period of six months. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In late March, he resumed physical therapy. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Bracey was then discharged by his physical therapists on May 19, 2015 "at the Medium Physical Demand Category limiting his ability to lift weights that were more than 37-57 pounds." (Id. at ¶ 18.) The next day Bracey's personal physician, Dr. Greg Osgood, M.D., recommended that he continue to work on light duty for an additional six months, determining that he had trauma arthritis in his arm. (Id. at ¶ 21 -) On June 9, 2015, an independent medical examiner evaluated Bracey and released him to "full duty without restrictions." (Id. at ¶ 27.) Bracey, however, continued to follow Dr. Osgood's recommendation and work light duty. (Id. at ¶ 30.)

         Later that month, in a letter dated June 18, 2015 and received by Bracey on June 23, 2015, Lancaster's safety manager informed Bracey that Lancaster had received the independent medical examiner's report, and unless the company heard back from him by June 26, 2015, the company would consider him to have resigned. (Id. at ¶ 32.) On June 23, Bracey contacted the Director of Human Resources, who told him that he was to return to work "without restrictions or risk being resigned." (Id. at ¶ 33.) Bracey reported to work but continued to insist that he could not work full duty. (Id. at ¶¶ 51, 52.) He alleges that he requested meetings with Lancaster employees to discuss his accommodations and light duty requests, but Lancaster did not afford him these meetings. (Id. at ¶ 39, 42, 57.) On June 26, 2015, Bracey received another letter from Lancaster which again threatened that he would be "deemed resigned" if he did not report to work ready for full duty. (Id. at ¶ 49.) Having not complied with Lancaster's directions, on July 7, 2015, he received a letter from Lancaster foods which indicated that he had resigned. (Id. at ¶ 61.) Bracey disputes this representation. (Id.)

         Some five months later, on or about December 12, 2015, Bracey filed a Charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. at ¶ 67.) Over a year later, he ultimately received a Right to Sue letter on February 5, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 7.) On April 28, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County alleging interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C §§ 2601, et seq. (Counts I, II); discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. (Counts III-V); disability discrimination, wrongful discharge, failure to accommodate, and disability retaliation under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act ("FEPA"), Md. Code, State Gov't § 20-266(a) (Count VI-VIII); and breach of the contract of good faith and fair dealing (Count IX). On June 30, 2017, Defendant removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         On July 11, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration on the ground that Plaintiff had signed an Arbitration Agreement. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff then moved to stay the proceedings pending the receipt of files and other documents from the EEOC, which this Court granted. (ECF Nos. 11, 13.) After receiving the file, on November 17, 2017, 'Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 17.) On December 4, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration. (ECF No. 21.) In response, Bracey argued that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because it effectively shortened the applicable limitations period by requiring him to submit an arbitration request to his employer within one year of the conduct giving rise to his claim. (ECF No. 22.) On March 30, 2018, this Court granted the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration, finding that the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. On April 13, 2018, Lancaster filed the pending Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs. Subsequently, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Reconsideration under FRCP 60 on April 26, 2018. In the Motion, Plaintiff claims that he has discovered new evidence which purportedly reveals that he is exempt from arbitration because, as a truck driver employed to ship goods in interstate commerce, he is exempt from arbitration under Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). This is an entirely novel legal argument; Bracey did not allege that he was engaged in interstate commerce in the Amended Complaint and did not argue that he fit this exception in response to Lancaster's Motion to Dismiss. On April 27, 2018 Bracey appealed this case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. (ECF No. 35.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not expressly recognize motions for "reconsideration." Instead, Rule 59(e) authorizes a district court to alter, amend, or vacate a prior judgment, and Rule 60 provides for relief from judgment. See Katyle v. Penn Nat'l Gaming, Inc., 637 F.3d 462, 471 n.4 (4th Or. 2011), cert, denied, 132 S.Ct. 115 (2011). As this Court explained in Cross v. Fleet Reserve Ass'n Pension Plan, WDQ-05-0001, 2010 WL 3609530, at *2 (D. Md. Sept. 14, 2010):

A party may move to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e), or for relief from a judgment under Rule 60(b). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) & 60(b). A motion to alter or amend filed within 28 days of the judgment is analyzed under Rule 59(e); if the motion is filed later, Rule 60(b) controls. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); MLC Auto., LLC v. Town of S. Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 280 (4th Or. 2008); In re Burnley, 988 F.2d 1, 2-3 (4th Cir. 1992).

         (footnote omitted). Although Bracey seeks relief pursuant to Rule 60(b), he notes that he has filed his Motion within twenty-eight (28) days of this Court's Order granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 33, at 1.) Accordingly, Rule 59(e) governs this Court's analysis. See, e.g., Knott v. Wedgwood, DKC-13-2486, 2014 WL 4660811, at *2 (D. Md. Sept. 11, 2014) ("Although Plaintiff purports to bring his motion for reconsideration under Rule 60(b)(1), because it was filed within twenty-eight days of entry of the underlying order, it is properly analyzed under Rule 59(e).")

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has repeatedly recognized that a final judgment[1] may be amended under Rule 59(e) in only three circumstances: (1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. See, e.g., Gagliano v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.,547 F.3d 230, 241 n.8 (4th Or. 2008); see also Fleming v. Maryland National Capital Park & Vanning Commission, DKC-11-2769, 2012 WL 12877387, at *1 - (D. Md. Mar. 8, 2012). A Rule 59(e) motion "may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to entry of judgment." Vac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat'lFire Ins. Co.,148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998); see also Kelly v. Simpson, ...


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