Yohannes v. Minn. IT Servs. “MNIT”, 21-cv-620 (PJS/ECW)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtELIZABETH COWAN WRIGHT, United States Magistrate Judge.
PartiesBarnabas A. Yohannes, Plaintiff, v. Minnesota IT Services “MNIT”, Defendant.
Docket Number21-cv-620 (PJS/ECW)
Decision Date15 July 2022

Barnabas A. Yohannes, Plaintiff,

Minnesota IT Services “MNIT”, Defendant.

No. 21-cv-620 (PJS/ECW)

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 15, 2022


ELIZABETH COWAN WRIGHT, United States Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (Dkt. 46) (“Motion to Amend”). The Court held a hearing on the Motion to Amend on June 2, 2022, after the parties' unsuccessful attempts at settling this case. For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Amend is denied.


A. Operative Complaint

Plaintiff Barnabas A. Yohannes (“Plaintiff” or “Yohannes”) alleges in relevant part in the operative Complaint as follows: Plaintiff is a resident of Minnesota. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 11.) He is an African American and is originally from Eritrea. (Id.) Defendant Minnesota IT Services (“Defendant” or “MNIT”) is the governing body of all information technology related services of all Minnesota agencies. (Id. ¶ 12.) Yohannes has been employed on and off by MNIT as an Information Technologist (“IT”) at varying levels. (Id. ¶ 13.) Most recently, Plaintiff was hired on February 28, 2019 at an ITS4 position, and placed at the Office of Higher Education (“OHE”), where he continues to


work. (Id.) Yohannes replaced an individual at an ITS5 position. (Id. ¶ 226.) Yohannes is currently the only programmer that is an ITS4. (Id. ¶ 258.)

Since he was hired at OHE, there have been three positions that Plaintiff was qualified for, however, because he is Black, he was not even considered for any of these positions. (Id. ¶ 269.) In May 2020, Yohannes' supervisor, Rich Westgard, hired a Caucasian to an ITS5 position without opening the position for competition. (Id. ¶¶ 25356.) In his 2021 annual review, Yohannes wrote, “I believe, my Position Description (ITS4) doesn't match my work. I believe, I've been a Full Stack Application Developer for over 10 years. Therefore, my Position Description should have been ITS5.” (Id. ¶ 270.) Westgard scheduled and canceled Yohannes' annual review about five times and he asserted that he would schedule it later, but, as of the date Yohannes filed the operative Complaint, “never did.” (Id. ¶ 270.)

Yohannes filed an administrative charge with the Equal Employment and Employment Commission (“EEOC”) on February 16, 2021. (Dkt. 12-3 at 3; Dkt. 50-1 at 1.) Yohannes checked three boxes on the charge form: one for race discrimination, one for national-origin discrimination, and one for retaliation. (Id.) In support of his charge, Yohannes asserted the following basis for his claims:

I believe [MNIT] subjected me to differential treatment when I was held to different standards than employees outside my protected classes and was denied advancement opportunities. I complained about employment discrimination and believe I was retaliated against for prior complaints
I believe I have been discriminated against on the basis of my race, black; national origin, Eritrea; and retaliated against for participating in protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended

Id. Plaintiff stated that the dates the discrimination and retaliation took place were January 1, 2020 through February 16, 2021, and that this was a “continuing action.” (Id.)

The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on February 24, 2021, and Yohannes filed the present lawsuit on March 3, 2021, asserting a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C.§§ 2000e, et. seq., for employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. (Dkts. 1 & 1-1.)

B. Motion to Dismiss

MNIT filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Dkt. 8.) On August 10, 2021, Chief United States District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims except for his Title VII claims that he was discriminated against based on his race and national origin when he was denied the opportunity to apply for a promotion in the spring of 2020 and when he was denied a timely annual review-at which he would be evaluated for such a promotion-in 2021. (Dkt. 27.)

C. Proposed Amendments

Turning to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, Plaintiff failed to file a redline proposed amended complaint as required by the Local Rules for the District of Minnesota. See D. Minn. LR 15.1(b). As best as this Court can discern, apart from the similar facts alleged in the original Complaint (even after the removal of some of the previous allegations), the proposed amended complaint adds allegations in pertinent part that Westgard provided Plaintiff with a negative annual review sometime after September 2021, and blamed him for the inadequacies of other employees as pretext to get him fired; Plaintiff was being told that the work he performed was basic or that it could be done by a high school


student; Plaintiff was a whistleblower with respect to “wasteful spending”; and Plaintiff's programs were intentionally sabotaged by a co-worker as a pretext to fire him. (Dkt. 461 ¶¶ 85-88, 90-91, 122-26, 131-34.) Along with the Title VII claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, Plaintiff has listed a number of additional causes of action in his proposed amended complaint: a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et. seq. (“ADEA”), for employment discrimination on the basis of age; a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; a claim under the Minnesota Human Rights; a claim under the “Minnesota Fair Pay Act”; a claim under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act; and a claim under 18 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Dkt. 46-1 at 2-3.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). The determination as to whether to grant leave to amend is entrusted to the sound discretion of the trial court. See, e.g., Niagara of Wisc. Paper Corp. v. Paper Indus. Union Mgmt. Pension Fund, 800 F.2d 742, 749 (8th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). The Eighth Circuit has held that although amendment of a pleading “should be allowed liberally to ensure that a case is decided on its merits . . . there is no absolute right to amend.” Ferguson v. Cape Girardeau Cty., 88 F.3d 647, 650-51 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing Thompson-El v. Jones, 876 F.2d 66, 67 (8th Cir. 1989); Chesnut v. St. Louis Cty., 656 F.2d 343, 349 (8th Cir. 1981)).

Denial of leave to amend may be justified by “undue delay, bad faith on the part of the moving party, futility of the amendment or unfair prejudice to the opposing party.” Sanders v. Clemco Indus., 823 F.2d 214, 216 (8th Cir. 1987) (citing Foman v. Davis,


371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)); see also Hillesheim v. Myron's Cards and Gifts, Inc., 897 F.3d 953, 955 (8th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted) (“A district court's denial of leave to amend a complaint may be justified if the amendment would be futile.”). “Denial of a motion for leave to amend on the basis of futility means the district court has reached the legal conclusion that the amended [pleading] could not withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, in reviewing a denial of leave to amend we ask whether the proposed amended [pleading] states a cause of action under the Twombly pleading standard ....” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 850 51 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation and marks omitted); see also In re Senior Cottages of Am., LLC, 482 F.3d 997, 1001 (8th Cir. 2007) (“[W]hen a court denies leave to amend on the ground of futility, it means that the court reached a legal conclusion that the amended complaint could not withstand a Rule 12 motion.”).

On a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must take the well-pleaded allegations of a claim as true, and construe the pleading, and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, most favorably to the pleader. See Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). To survive a motion to dismiss, a claim “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Pro se complaints are construed liberally, but they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced. See Stone v. Harry,


364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). While matters “outside the pleadings” may not be considered in deciding a Rule 12 motion to dismiss, documents “necessarily embraced by the complaint are not matters outside the pleading.” Zean v. Fairview Health Servs., 858 F.3d 520, 526 (8th Cir. 2017). Thus, while courts primarily consider the allegations in the complaint in determining whether to grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts additionally consider matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record,[1] orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint whose authenticity is unquestioned. Id.; see also Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab, Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 n.3 (8th Cir. 2012); Advance Tr. & Life Escrow Servs., LTA v. ReliaStar Life Ins. Co., No. 18CV02863 (DWF/ECW), 2020 WL 5229677, at *7 (D. Minn. Sept. 2, 2020) (applying the same standard to a motion to amend under Rule 15) (citing Enervations, Inc. v. Minn. Mining & Mfg. Co., 380 F.3d 1066, 1069 (8th Cir. 2004)) (citations omitted).

With these standards in mind, the Court turns to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend.


A. Age Discrimination in Employment Act Claim

Defendant argues that the Motion to Amend with respect to...

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