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Kyles v. Wendy's International, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 19, 2019

JALYHA KYLES, Plaintiff,
WENDY'S INTERNATIONAL, LLC, et al., Defendants.



         Pending before the Court are Defendant Reginald Brown, III's Motion for Leave to File Answer to Complaint (ECF No. 26), Plaintiff Jalyha Kyles' Cross Motion for Default Judgment against Brown (ECF No. 29) and Motion to Amend Complaint (ECF No. 33), Defendant DavCo Restaurants, LLC's Partial Motion to Dismiss the original Complaint (ECF No. 28), and Defendants Wendy's International, LLC and Quality is Our Recipe, LLC (collectively, “Wendy's Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss the original Complaint. ECF No. 11. For the following reasons, Kyles' Motion to Amend Complaint (ECF No. 33) is GRANTED in part, Kyles' Cross Motion for Default Judgment against Brown (ECF No. 29) is DENIED as moot, and DavCo's Partial Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as moot. ECF No. 28. The Wendy's Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11) is DENIED and Brown's Motion for Leave to Answer (ECF No. 26) is GRANTED.

         I. Background[1]

         Wendy's International, LLC (“Wendy's International”) is a parent and affiliate corporation of Quality Is Our Recipe, LLC (“Quality”). ECF No. 33-2 ¶ 10. Quality is a franchisor of DavCo Restaurants, LLC (“DavCo”), and DavCo is the operator of 152 Wendy's fast-food franchises in Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. Wendy's #6607, a DavCo-operated store, hired Kyles on August 29, 2016 as a Crew Member to work afternoon and evening shifts. Id. ¶¶ 9, 28- 29. Kyles was seventeen-years old when she was hired. Id. ¶ 28.

         After Kyles turned eighteen, she began to work the night shift at the Wendy's store. Id. ¶ 30. Defendant Brown, her manager, worked the night shift as well, and was often inebriated on the job. Id. ¶¶ 30, 37. Brown would make frequent trips to the parking lot where other employees loitered to smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Id. ¶ 37. Brown also engaged in play-fighting with the employees whom he supervised. Id. ¶ 32. On September 20, 2016, he grabbed Kyles in front of the other employees and did not release his grip even after she told him to “stop.” Id. ¶ 33. Wresting herself away from Brown, Kyles suffered bruising on her arm and broke her Medic Alert bracelet. Id.

         Brown continued to touch Kyles against her will, hugging and tickling her. Id. ¶ 36. On October 19, 2016, [2] while Kyles was working the night shift, Brown grabbed Kyles, groped her breast, and digitally penetrated her vagina. Id. ¶¶ 40-41. Kyles reported the incident to DavCo the next day. Id. ¶ 42. She was given the day off and then placed on two days' administrative leave. Id. Kyles declined a transfer to another Wendy's location, and stopped working for Wendy's as of October 27, 2016. Id. ¶ 43. Since being victimized by Brown, Kyles has suffered an array of physical and emotional injuries, including exacerbation of her epilepsy and bouts of depression, all requiring medical attention. Id. ¶¶ 44-46.

         On July 27, 2017, Kyles, through counsel, filed a formal charge with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights (“MCCR”), which was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Despite Kyles' request that the Wendy's Defendants (Quality and Wendy's International) be named in the charge, MCCR erroneously named and served DavCo only.[3] Id. ¶ 23. Upon realizing the Wendy's Defendants were never served with the formal charge, Kyles repeatedly requested that the MCCR amend the charge to name and serve the Wendy's Defendants. ECF Nos. 14-13-14-14, 14-6. The MCCR declined to amend the initial charge and instead issued an “additional charge” on January 16, 2018. ECF No. 14-15. The 2018 charge named Wendy's International and MCCR served this entity with the charge. ECF No. 33-2 ¶¶ 25-26. The January 2018 charge was also cross-filed with the EEOC. Id. ¶ 25.

         After 180 days passed, Kyles filed this action, naming Brown, Wendy's International, Quality, and DavCo as Defendants. ECF No. 1. In this suit, Kyles alleges that the Defendants discriminated, harassed and retaliated against her on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII and the Maryland statutory equivalent. Id. Kyles also brings common law claims of assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. ECF Nos. 1, 33-2.

         In response to an initial round of motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 11, 28), Plaintiff moved to amend the Complaint. ECF Nos. 1, 33-2. The Court begins with Kyles' Motion to Amend.

         II. Motion to Amend the Complaint

         A plaintiff may amend pleadings only once without leave of court if filed within the time proscribed by Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a).[4] Otherwise, Courts should treat motions for leave to amend liberally, granting leave “freely . . . when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Leave may be denied, however, when allowing amendment would “be prejudicial to the opposing party, when the moving party has acted in bad faith or with a dilatory motive, or when the amendment would be futile.” Arora v. James, 689 Fed.Appx. 190, 190 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The proposed Amended Complaint eliminates the counts seeking to hold the Corporate Defendants vicariously liable for the assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against Brown. The Corporate Defendants do not oppose this amendment, and so the Court grants the motion as to those claims. ECF No. 33; ECF No. 38 at 9; ECF No. 39 at 1. Defendants do object, however, to Kyles adding claims for intentional infliction and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the Corporate Defendants. ECF No. 33 at 13. Defendants argue that because such claims cannot lie against them as a matter of law, amendment should be denied as futile. ECF No. 38 at 9; ECF No. 39 at 1.

         A claim is futile when it is “clearly insufficient or frivolous” and thus cannot survive a motion to dismiss. Whitaker v. Ciena Corp., No. RDB-18-0044, 2018 WL 3608777, at *3 (D. Md. July 27, 2018). In assessing whether a claim is futile, the Court reviews the claim for sufficiency pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Kerrigan v. Bd. of Educ. of Carroll Cty., No. JKB-14-3153, 2016 WL 470827, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 8, 2016).

         A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). The Court accepts “the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, ” and construes all facts and reasonable inferences most favorably to the plaintiff. See Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” B ...

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