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Depaolo v. Ocean Properties Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Maine

January 31, 2017

CARY DEPAOLO, Plaintiff,
v.
OCEAN PROPERTIES LTD, GHM PORTLAND MAR, LLC, d/b/a PORTLAND MARRIOTT AT SABLE OAKS, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Nancy Torresen United States Chief District Judge

         Before me is the Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). (ECF No. 12). For the reasons stated below, the motion is DENIED.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must “construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party to determine if there exists a plausible claim upon which relief may be granted.” Flock v. U.S. Dep't of Transp., 840 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).[1]

         Ordinarily, a “district court may properly consider only facts and documents that are part of or incorporated into the complaint; if matters outside the pleadings are considered, the motion must be decided under the more stringent standards applicable to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment.” Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 321 (1st Cir. 2008). However, the First Circuit recognizes “exceptions for documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint.”[2] Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Cary DePaolo was employed at the Marriott Hotel in South Portland, Maine for 16 years until his resignation in April of 2015. Compl. ¶ 1 (ECF No. 1). The Defendants in this matter are GHM Portland MAR LLC (“GHM”) and Ocean Properties, LTD (“OPL”). Compl. ¶¶ 2-3. GHM is a limited liability company based in South Portland, Maine, and OPL is a Delaware corporation that owns and operates over 100 hotels throughout North America. Compl. ¶¶ 2-3. The Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks is one of the hotels that OPL owns and operates. Compl. ¶ 2.

         In September of 2015, DePaolo filed a pro se complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission (“MHRC”), naming “Portland Marriott” as his employer. Pl.'s Ex. 1 (ECF No. 18-1). On September 15, 2016, DePaolo brought suit against both GHM and OPL alleging violations of federal and state law. In Count One, DePaolo asserts claims for discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation under the Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and Maine Whistleblowers Protection Act (“MWPA”). Count Two asserts claims for interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). This motion to dismiss followed.

         DISCUSSION

         OPL argues that Count One must be dismissed because the Plaintiff did not name OPL as a respondent in his administrative charge. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss as to Def. OPL 4 (“Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss”) (ECF No. 12). In order to bring an action under the ADA, an employee must first exhaust his administrative remedies. See Bonilla v. Muebles J.J. Alvarez, Inc., 194 F.3d 275, 277 (1st Cir. 1999) (“We hold that the ADA mandates compliance with the administrative procedures specified under Title VII . . ., and that, absent special circumstances . . . such compliance must occur before a federal court may entertain a suit that seeks recovery for an alleged violation of Title I of the ADA.”). This requirement provides “notice to both the employer and the agency of an alleged violation and affords an opportunity to swiftly and informally take any corrective action necessary to reconcile the violation.” Thornton v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 587 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2009).

         Pursuant to Title VII, which applies to claims brought under Title I of the ADA, a plaintiff “may not maintain a suit against a defendant in federal court if that defendant was not named in the administrative proceedings and offered an opportunity for conciliation or voluntary compliance.” McKinnon v. Kwong Wah Rest., 83 F.3d 498, 504 (1st Cir. 1996). But as is the case with most general rules, there are exceptions. Id. The parties' briefing focuses on the identity of interest exception. Although the parties have not cited a First Circuit case addressing this exception, lower courts within this Circuit commonly follow the Third Circuit's four-part test to determine whether an identity of interest exists between the named and the unnamed party. See, e.g., Ashley v. Paramount Hotel Grp., Inc., 451 F.Supp.2d 319, 327-28 (D.R.I. 2006). Relevant considerations include:

1) whether the role of the unnamed party could through reasonable effort by the complainant be ascertained at the time of the filing of the EEOC complaint; 2) whether, under the circumstances, the interests of a named are so similar as the unnamed party's that for the purpose of obtaining voluntary conciliation and compliance it would be unnecessary to include the unnamed party in the EEOC proceedings; 3) whether its absence from the EEOC proceedings resulted in actual prejudice to the interests of the unnamed party; 4) whether the unnamed party has in some way represented to the complainant that its relationship with the complainant is to be through the named party.

Glus v. G.C. Murphy Co., 562 F.2d 880, 888 (3rd Cir. 1977) (cited in McKinnon, 83 F.3d at 504). The Glus test is a fact-intensive inquiry. See EEOC v. Simbaki, Ltd., 767 F.3d 475, 485 n.16 (5th Cir. 2014).

         OPL contends that the Plaintiff has failed to “allege any facts to show that an ‘identity of interest' exists between the two entities” and cites non-binding cases where courts dismissed claims under similar circumstances. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 5-7; see also Defs.' Reply 2-4 (ECF No. 20). The Plaintiff has alleged that OPL is the parent company of GHM and that, through its subsidiaries, OPL owns and operates the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks where he was employed for sixteen years. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2. At this early stage, the Plaintiff's allegations are sufficient. Whether the identity of interest exception applies requires a more developed factual record than I have before me and is better suited for resolution at summary judgment. See, e.g., Lockhart v. Holiday Inn Exp. Southwind, 531 F. App'x 544, 547 (6th Cir. 2013) (reversing district court for dismissing Title VII claim on exhaustion grounds and noting that “discovery is necessary before it may be determined whether Defendants have a ‘clear identity of interest' with the party named in Plaintiff's ...


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