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Coughlin v. 750 Woburn Street Operating Company, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 8, 2019



          F. Dennis Saylor, United States District Judge.

         This is a claim for unpaid wages under Massachusetts law. It was removed to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. Plaintiff Katherine Coughlin has filed a motion to amend the complaint to add claims of disability and age discrimination, and to add a non-diverse party. Plaintiff has also filed a motion to remand. Because the motion to remand relies entirely on the success of the motion to amend, the motions will be considered together.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Katherine Coughlin is a 65-year-old resident of Massachusetts. (Proposed Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 14). From 2013 to 2018, she was employed as a physical-therapy assistant by defendant 750 Woburn Street Operating Company, LLC. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 36).[1]

         The complaint alleges that in February 2018, Coughlin and her coworkers noticed that their paychecks did not include hours that they had logged and worked. (Id. ¶ 8). Coughlin alleges that she complained about this to a company administrator, Jeff Crowley, and that after she complained, an audit was conducted, and she was paid “for all hours that she had logged.” (Id. ¶¶ 10).

         Coughlin alleges, however, that she was still not paid for working through her 30-minute lunch breaks. (Id. ¶ 11). In addition, she alleges that because her supervisors encouraged her not to work overtime, she logged out to avoid accruing overtime hours, even though, on average, she continued to work approximately 45 minutes of overtime twice per month. (Id. ¶ 14). She alleges that she was not paid for the overtime work she performed. (Id. ¶ 11).

         In March 2018, Kathy Diorio, the Director of Rehabilitation of 750 Woburn, became Coughlin's supervisor. (Id. ¶ 15). Coughlin alleges that Diorio “discriminated against [her] on the basis of her age” by “treat[ing] [her] worse than the younger” physical-therapy assistants. (Id. ¶ 15-17). Specifically, she alleges “[f]or example” that Diorio assigned her to work with the “more difficult patients, such as the heavier patients and patients who exhibited difficult behavior, ” even though she “would say” that her “back [was] killing [her].” (Id. ¶ 17-18).[2] In addition, she alleges that Diorio was “kinder to the younger” physical-therapy assistants and answered their questions while she ignored both Coughlin's questions and her “suggestions regarding patients.” (Id. ¶ 19-20).

         Coughlin alleges that on August 15, 2018, she complained to “Melissa, ” her Area Regional Manager, about her case load. (Id. ¶ 21). She allegedly told Melissa that she was “being assigned to [the] heaviest and most difficult patients” and “patients she had never seen before on days that they had a family conference or treatment plan due.” (Id.). Melissa allegedly told Coughlin that “she realized [her] complaints were legitimate” and that “things will change.” (Id. ¶ 22).

         Coughlin contends that she “suffers from migraines with aura, which can cause blurred vision.” (Id. ¶ 29; see ¶ 14). On August 21, 2018, Coughlin came to work feeling ill. (Id. ¶ 23). At approximately 12:30 p.m., as she was filling out documentation on her computer, she put her head down on a tray table after becoming dizzy and faint. (Id. ¶ 24). While her head was down, two other employees, Amy and Corey, came in the room and stated that Coughlin was “sleeping.” (Id. ¶ 26). Coughlin alleges that she immediately told Corey and Amy that she felt sick, and Amy asked if Coughlin needed to go home. (Id. ¶ 27). Coughlin responded that she would “see if her migraine passed, as she knew they were busy that day.” (Id.).

         Once Coughlin completed her documentation, which had taken her longer than usual due to her headache, Amy met her in the hallway and informed her that she was going to Crowley's office. (Id. ¶ 30). Crowley allegedly told Coughlin that “it had been reported to him that she was sleeping during her shift” and that he was sending her home so that an investigation could be conducted. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 33). Coughlin alleges that she told Crowley she had not been sleeping, but that she had put her head down because she was “suffering from a migraine and felt dizzy.” (Id. ¶ 32).

         On August 27, 2018, Crowley called Coughlin and told her to come to his office. (Id. ¶ 34). Coughlin then met with Crowley and the Director of Nurses, Carol Manaysian. (Id.). At that meeting, Crowley allegedly told her that he had to fire two aides “a few weeks ago for sleeping” and would “have to follow the same protocol” for Coughlin. (Id. ¶ 35). She was then terminated, effective August 21, 2018. (Id. ¶ 36). The complaint alleges that the company “failed to engage in the interactive process” with her “regarding her suffering from migraines.” (Id. ¶ 37).

         B. Procedural History

         On October 29, 2018, Coughlin filed a complaint in Middlesex Superior Court. (Compl. ¶ 1). The complaint named “Care One Management, Inc. and Kathy Diorio” as defendants and brought claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act for unpaid wages (for the lunch breaks) and unpaid overtime wages (for the hours worked above 40 per week). (Id. ¶¶ 16, 19).

         On October 31, 2018, Coughlin filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”). (Mot. to Am., Ex. 1 at 2). The charge alleged that CareOne and Kathy Diorio had discriminated against her due to her age and her disability. (Id.). The alleged disability was that she “suffers from migraines.” (Id. at 3).

         On November 28, 2018, 750 Woburn's attorney, Joshua Nadreau, e-mailed Coughlin's attorney, Emily Boney, and advised that (1) instead of either CareOne or Diorio, Coughlin's true employer was “750 Woburn Street Operating Company, LLC” and (2) that Diorio could not be held individually liable under the Wage Act. (Opp. to Mot. to Am., Ex. A at 10-11). After various other e-mails, and an apparent phone message, Nadreau sent Boney an e-mail stating that 750 Woburn was “unable to agree that it would not seek removal should [Diorio] be dismissed.” (Id. at 4).[3]

         On January 28, 2019, Coughlin filed an amended complaint that named only 750 Woburn as a defendant. (State Record at 15).[4] The amended complaint asserted the same wage claims as the original complaint. (Id. at 16).

         On January 31, 2019, Coughlin's attorney, John Davis, asked to withdraw her complaint with the MCAD, stating that she “wish[ed] to file a private right of action in civil court.” (Mot. to Am., Ex. 1 at 2). Davis sent a letter with the withdrawal request that asked the MCAD to “note that this letter constitutes a formal Private Right of Action request, ” and to “grant us a PRA at your earliest convenience.” (Id. at 3).

         On February 21, 2019, 750 Woburn removed the case to this Court. On March 11, 2019, the MCAD sent Coughlin a letter stating that her complaint before the Commission had been dismissed. (Id. at 1).

         On March 25, 2019, Coughlin filed a motion to amend the complaint. Coughlin seeks to add two claims for disability and age discrimination under Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 151B, and seeks to add Kathy Diorio as a defendant. On the same day, Coughlin filed a motion to remand the case to state court.

         II. ...

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