Ivery v. Gen. Die Casters, Inc., CASE NO. 5:17-cv-37

Decision Date08 December 2017
Docket NumberCASE NO. 5:17-cv-37
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio



Before the Court is the motion of plaintiff Jerome Ivery ("Ivery") for leave to join an additional party plaintiff and file an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 13 ["Mot."].) Defendant General Die Casters, Inc. ("General Die") opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 15 ["Opp'n"].) For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Ivery's motion.


Ivery is a former employee of General Die. In the initial complaint, he alleges that General Die discharged him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Ohio's Fair Employment Practices Act, Ohio Rev. Code §§ 4112.02 and 4112.99. (Doc. No. 1 (Complaint ["Compl."]) ¶ 1.) He now moves for leave to add Leroy Dennis ("Dennis"), another former employee of General Die, as a plaintiff in this action and has appended a proposed amended complaint ("FAC") to his motion. (Doc. No. 13-1 (FAC).) Because General Die opposes joinder upon its belief that the rights asserted by Ivery and Dennis do not arise out of the same transaction or occurrence, it is necessary to review the new proposed complaint allegations relating to each individual. Moreover, because Ivery's motion was filed in the early stages of litigation, before discovery has been completed, the Court is limited to the allegations in the FAC in determining whether joinder would be appropriate. See Lee v. Dell Prods., L.P., No. 3:06cv0001, 2006 WL 2981301, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. Oct. 16, 2006).

A. Ivery's Factual Allegations

Ivery, who is African American, worked for General Die as a Set-Up Operator/Job Developer from November 14, 1979 to January 15, 2014. (FAC ¶¶ 8, 11.) He claims to have enjoyed a good work record for most of his tenure with the company. (Id. ¶ 12.) In October 2013, Ivery was directed by his physician to take a leave of absence due to stress and anxiety. (Id. ¶ 13.) He returned to work in November 2013. (Id. ¶ 14.) He maintains that, upon his return, he discovered that his locker had been emptied "as though he had been terminated." (Id. ¶ 15.) He also learned that his co-workers were aware of his psychological conditions and "had been talking about how he was 'crazy.'" (Id. ¶ 16.)

On January 13, 2014, one of Ivery's co-workers, a Caucasian man named Justin Schrantz, falsely reported that Ivery was not using the proper lock-out/tag-out procedures while working on his machine. (Id. ¶ 18.) Schrantz lodged this report with a Caucasian Manager named Terry Betz. (Id. ¶ 19.) While Ivery maintains that Betz could have questioned him about the procedure used, Betz chose to report these false accusations to the company's human resources department. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) Ivery was fired on January 15, 2014. (Id. ¶ 23.)

At an unemployment hearing held subsequent to Ivery's termination, Schrantz and Betz testified that they did not approach Ivery about his lock-out/tag-out practices because they were afraid that he would become violent. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) According to Ivery, he had never exhibited any violent behavior in the workplace or anywhere else. (Id. ¶ 26.)

B. Leroy Dennis' Factual Allegations

Leroy Dennis, who is also African American, began working for General Die in August 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 33.) He was initially hired as a temporary employee, but was ultimately assigned to the third shift as a Job Developer where he worked with Schrantz. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35.) In early 2014, he and Schrantz disagreed as to how to resolve a work-related problem, so Dennis reached out to another co-worker named "Frank." (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.) While Dennis explained the problem to Frank, Schrantz "came up behind [Dennis] so that his chest was touching Dennis' back and he screamed in Dennis' ear." (Id. ¶ 39.) When Dennis pushed Schrantz away, Schrantz repeated the "same threatening bumping behavior twice." (Id. ¶¶ 40-41.)

The following day, a Caucasian supervisor, Rick Jones ("Jones"), convened a meeting with Dennis, Schrantz, and Frank, along with Managers Brian Lennon ("Lennon") and Chuck Long. Because Frank supported Dennis' version of the events of the previous day, Lennon sent Schrantz home for the day. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) Still, Lennon excused Schrantz' behavior, stating that "he's young." (Id. ¶ 45.) "Two or three days later," Dennis was asked in a meeting with Betz to repeat his version of the story. Betz then asked Schrantz if Dennis' version was accurate. (Id. ¶ 47.) Schrantz attempted to minimize his own behavior, but was ultimately forced to apologize. (Id. ¶ 48.) From that point forward, Schrantz acted as though he was out to get Dennis by "bad-mouthing" him to co-workers and supervisors, and blaming Dennis for his own performance issues. (Id. ¶¶ 49-51.) Schrantz, along with Lead Employee Aaron Hutching ("Hutching") (Caucasian) and Jones, was heard to make racially disparaging jokes. (Id. ¶ 52.)

On or about October 6, 2014, another employee, Ladonna Smith ("Smith"), was having trouble with her machine and sought help from Dennis. (Id. ¶ 54.) When Hutching, who is afriend of Schrantz, inquired as to the problem, Dennis explained that he was helping Smith with her machine. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.) As Dennis and Hutching walked away, Dennis said that Smith "was bitching that her machine was broken and no one came to help her when she paged them." (Id. ¶¶ 56-57.) Hutching told Dennis that he could not speak like that and warned him to calm down. Later, he accused Dennis of calling Smith a "bitch." (Id. ¶ 58.)

Approximately a week later (on October 12, 2014), Schrantz approached Dennis and asked what had transpired between him and Hutching, offering that Betz "wanted to know." Dennis advised Schrantz that Hutching appeared to believe that he had called Smith a bitch. (Id. ¶¶ 59-60.) The following day (October 13, 2014), Dennis was called into a meeting conducted by Lennon. Doug Hicks and Betz were also present. Lennon advised Dennis that the company was firing him because there had been complaints that Dennis was "bumping into people." (Id. ¶¶ 61-62.) According to the FAC, Dennis was terminated that same day. (Id. ¶ 33.)

C. Procedural History

In November 2014, Ivery filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id. ¶ 30.) On October 5, 2016, the EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter. (Id. ¶ 31.) Dennis also filed a charge of race discrimination against General Die on some unidentified date, and the charge was dismissed more than 90 days before the filing of the present motion.1 (Id. ¶ 65.)

On January 5, 2017, Ivery initiated the present action. On May 24, 2017, the Court conducted a case management conference, at which time it set dates and deadlines to govern the case. (Doc. No. 11 (Case Management Plan and Trial Order); Minutes, dated 5/24/17.) On the last day to add parties or amend pleadings (July 27, 2017), Ivery filed the present motion.

D. Claims and Shared Complaint Allegations

The proposed FAC raises two claims. Count II is brought solely by Ivery and alleges disability discrimination. Count I is brought by Ivery and Dennis, and alleges race discrimination in violation of Ohio Rev. Code § 4112 et seq. Ivery and Dennis maintain that it is General Die's "standard operating procedure to subject African American employees to a heightened level of scrutiny not applied to Caucasian employees and to subject African American employees to discipline more often and more harshly than Caucasian employees." (Id. ¶ 73.) According to the FAC, both Ivery and Dennis were subjected to this heightened level of scrutiny and harsher discipline because of their race. (Id. ¶ 74.) They assert that, unlike Caucasian employees who allegedly committed similar workplace infractions and received the benefit of final warnings or discipline short of discharge, they were immediately terminated. (Id. ¶¶ 75-77.) They accuse General Die of engaging in a pattern and practice of disparate treatment of African American employees. (Id. ¶ 78.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a) governs permissive joinder of parties. A party seeking joinder of claimants under Rule 20 must establish (1) a right to relief arising out of the same transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, and (2) some question of law or fact common to all persons seeking to be joined. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(1); Scott v.Fairbanks Capital Corp., 284 F. Supp. 2d 880, 887-88 (S.D. Ohio 2003) (citing James v. Gilmore, 389 U.S. 572, 88 S. Ct. 695, 19 L. Ed. 2d 783 (1968)); Brown v. Worthington Steel, Inc., 211 F.R.D. 320, 324 (S.D. Ohio 2002) (citation omitted). Courts are most likely to allow joinder "when there is overlapping proof and testimony for the claims of the plaintiffs." Brown, 211 F.R.D. at 324 (citation omitted). "Absolute identity of all events" as to the several plaintiffs is unnecessary for permissive joinder under Rule 20(a). See Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1333 (8th Cir. 1974).

"Joinder is generally favored under the federal rules." Scott, 284 F. Supp. 2d at 887 (citing United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724, 86 S. Ct. 1130, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218 (1966) (parenthetical quotation omitted)). It "promotes judicial economy, trial convenience and expedites the final determination of disputes." Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). Accordingly, when exercising its discretion under Rule 20, trial courts are to accord a liberal interpretation to the requirements in order to prevent unnecessary multiple lawsuits. See Brown, 211 F.R.D. at 324 (citations omitted); see also Harper v. Pilot Travel Ctrs., LLC, No. 2:11-cv-759, 2012 WL 395122, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Feb. 7, 2012) (recognizing the discretionary nature of Rule 20 and Rule 21) (citations omitted).

General Die opposes joinder upon its belief that the right to relief asserted with respect to each individual does...

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