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King v. Maine Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 5, 2015

KRISTIN A. KING, Plaintiff,
v.
MAINE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff Kristin A. King alleges that Defendant Maine Department of Corrections discriminated against her in connection with her employment. More specifically, Plaintiff alleges discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and her disability status. Plaintiff also contends that Defendant failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disability, and retaliated against her for seeking an accommodation.

The matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint (ECF No. 34).[1] Through her motion, Plaintiff seeks to add her former supervisor, David D. Garrison, as an additional party defendant on a new claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the deprivation of her constitutional rights.

As explained below, following a review of the pleadings, and after consideration of the parties' arguments, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion.

Background

Plaintiff Kristin King worked for Defendant at its Downeast Correctional Facility for six and a half years. According to Plaintiff, her immediate supervisor at the Facility, Sgt. David Garrison, targeted Plaintiff for discipline because of Plaintiff's sexual orientation. Garrison would counsel and discipline Plaintiff for commonplace clerical errors that were not similarly addressed when committed by heterosexual male corrections officers. Plaintiff maintains that certain male officers committed more serious infractions and were not disciplined, or not disciplined as severely as she was for only minor infractions. Garrison would also refer to Plaintiff with a discriminatory slur. (Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 1.)

Garrison instituted disciplinary measures in connection with errors that Plaintiff made with "inmate counts" entered into the Facility's logbook. As alleged, errors in the count occurred routinely. When errors were discovered, ordinarily, the correct information was inserted into the logbook without incident. (Id. ¶¶ 18-21.) "[S]traight male corrections officers were almost never disciplined for such errors." (Id. ¶ 21.) After learning of Plaintiff's sexual orientation, Garrison began to copy her logbook errors and send them up the chain of command, which resulted in a series of disciplinary actions against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 23.) After an unspecified number of such errors over a period of more than two years, Garrison's reports to his superiors resulted in three fact-finding hearings for Plaintiff, a two-day suspension in December 2010, and the termination of Plaintiff's employment effective September 20, 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 24-33, 61, 62.)

Plaintiff asserts that during this time period, she challenged the disciplinary hearings as discriminatory, with support from her union representative ( id. ¶¶ 36-37); succumbed to severe depression and anxiety that substantially limited her major life activities, including interacting with others and working ( id. ¶ 39); required disability-related leave to address panic attacks, migraines, and insomnia, which was granted ( id. ¶¶ 41, 43); required a return to work accommodation, which was neither granted nor responded to, although several male officers had received such accommodations during King's tenure ( id. ¶¶ 46, 48, 50-52); and was out of work for nearly five months without pay ( id. ¶ 57).

On June 30, 2011, shortly before her termination from employment, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission. (Id. ¶ 53.) Defendant received notice of the filing prior to August 31, 2011. (Id. ¶ 59.) Defendant wrote Plaintiff on August 31, 2011, and advised Plaintiff that she was being placed on paid administrative leave pending completion of the fact-finding hearing previously scheduled for February 2011." [2] (Id. ¶ 60.) The hearing occurred on September 8, 2011. On September 15, 2011, Defendant notified Plaintiff that as the result of the fact-finding hearing, termination of her employment was proposed. Plaintiff had a pretermination hearing on September 20, 2011, and Defendant terminated her employment effective that day. (Id. ¶¶ 61-62.)

In support of her proposed § 1983 claim against Sgt. Garrison, Plaintiff alleges that Garrison, "while acting under color of state law, violated the constitutional rights of Officer King, including the rights to be free of discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation and the First Amendment right to engage in speech reporting and opposing unlawful discrimination without retaliation." (Id. ¶ 76.)

Discussion

Defendant objects to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on the ground that the proposed § 1983 claim against David Garrison is "futile." (Def.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File First Am. Compl., ECF No. 36) ("Opposition").

A. The Motion to Amend Standard

Rule 15(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a litigant to amend a pleading "as a matter of course" subject to certain time constraints. However, when a party seeks to amend a complaint more than 21 days after the filing of a responsive pleading, the other party's consent or leave of court is required in order to amend the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. ...


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