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Tellis v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 31, 2018

HERMAN CHARLES TELLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          Honorable Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (Dkt. # 38) and Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. # 23). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. Both Motions are opposed. Dkt. ## 28, 40. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (Dkt. # 38), and GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. # 23).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Herman Charles Tellis was hired by Defendant Alaska Airlines, Inc. as a Maintenance and Engineering Mechanic in 1990. Dkt. # 1-3. Prior to his resignation, Plaintiff made several complaints regarding Defendant to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. On February 8, 2013, Defendant notified Plaintiff that he could sign a resignation agreement and a settlement and release agreement in lieu of an involuntary termination. Id. at ¶ 5.8. Plaintiff signed both agreements. Id. The settlement agreement contained a general release of claims and a “No Reemployment” provision. Dkt. # 38. Several days later, Plaintiff revoked the settlement and release agreement. Dkt. # 1-3 Ex. 1.

         In November of 2013, the parties negotiated a new settlement agreement. Dkt. ## 40, 41. Defendant represents that this new settlement agreement was actually three settlement agreements. Dkt. # 40. The first is entitled, “Amendment to Confidential Settlement and Release Agreement, ” and refers back to the original February 2013 settlement agreement. Dkt. # 41 Ex. 1. The second settlement agreement was solely an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) settlement and release agreement (“ADEA Agreement”). Dkt. # 41 Ex. 2. The third settlement agreement is not at issue in this dispute. Plaintiff revoked the ADEA Agreement on November 12, 2013. Dkt. # 1-3 Ex. 1.

         On March 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed an EEOC complaint, alleging that Defendant denied him pay and refused to return his work tools in retaliation for revoking his settlement agreements. Dkt. # 1-3 at ¶ 5.10. On May 13, 2014, Plaintiff executed a new settlement and release agreement with Defendant that solely covered his ADEA claims. Dkt. # 1-3 Ex. 3. The EEOC then closed its investigation of the March 31, 2014 complaint, citing the May 13, 2014 settlement and release agreement. Dkt. # 1-3 Ex. 2. Plaintiff filed another EEOC complaint on September 28, 2015, alleging that “a waiver from Defendant became effective that violated the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”): because “consideration was not paid as agreed, ” the “mandatory 21 days to consider agreement tolled-out, ” language allowing him a 7-day revocation period was omitted, and “material changes were made to the agreement absent [Plaintiff's] acknowledgment.” Dkt. # 25. The EEOC closed its investigation of this complaint on November 4, 2015.

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint in King County Superior Court on May 22, 2017, alleging that Defendant discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the ADEA. Dkt. # 1. Defendant removed this case to the Western District of Washington shortly after. Id. On December 5, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to file a First Amended Complaint, which added a state law unlawful restraint of trade claim. Dkt. # 20. The Court struck Plaintiff's filing for failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. # 22. On December 8, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Dkt. # 23. Plaintiff then moved for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, again to add an unlawful restraint of trade claim. Dkt. # 26. Defendant opposed Plaintiff's motion, and Plaintiff voluntarily withdrew it on January 10, 2018. Dkt. # 34.

         On January 16, 2018, Plaintiff applied for a Supervisor Line Maintenance position with Defendant. Dkt. # 38 Ex. 1. On January 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed another EEOC complaint, alleging age discrimination because he had “heard nothing favorable from Alaska Airlines with regard to the position.” Id. The EEOC closed its investigation into Plaintiff's complaint and issued a Notice of Right to Sue to Plaintiff on February 8, 2018. Dkt. # 39. Plaintiff then filed a Motion to Amend one day later. Dkt. # 38. The proposed Third Amended Complaint again adds an unlawful restraint of trade claim and adds an additional ADEA retaliation claim. Dkt. # 38 Ex. 1.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Amend

         Amendment to pleadings is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). Rule 15(a) “provides that a party's right to amend as a matter of course terminates 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). “In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate a decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” Roth v. Garcia Marquez, 942 F.2d 617, 628 (9th Cir. 1991); United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Further, the policy of favoring amendments to pleadings should be applied with “extreme liberality.” DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987).

         Against this extremely liberal standard, the Court may deny leave to amend after considering “the presence of any of four factors: bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, and/or futility.” Owens v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001). But “[n]ot all of the factors merit equal weight ... it is the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party that carries the greatest weight.” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). “Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining [ ] factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend.” Id. The party opposing amendment bears the heavy burden of overcoming this presumption. DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987).

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         “Judgment on the pleadings is proper when the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner and Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1990). The standard applied on a Rule 12(c) motion is essentially the same as that applied on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim: “the allegations of the non-moving party must be accepted as true, while the allegations of the moving party which have been denied are assumed to be false.” Id. The Court is not required to accept as true legal conclusions or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action unsupported by alleged facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When considering a motion for judgment on ...


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