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Elchert v. Ohio Association of Food Banks

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 19, 2018

JASON N. ELCHERT, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
OHIO ASSOCIATION OF FOODBANKS, et al., Defendants.

          Elizabeth P. Deavers, Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Sever Plaintiffs' Claims and for Separate Trials (ECF No. 10) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 21 and 42(b) respectively, Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 11), and Defendants' Reply in Support. (ECF No. 14.) Defendants assert that the claims set forth in Plaintiffs' Complaint do not arise out of the same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions, and no questions of fact and law are common in this action. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs, Jason Elchert ("Elchert"), his husband Dustin Speakman, and Mr. Speakman's mother, Nancy Roscoe were long-term employees of Defendant Ohio Association of Foodbanks ("OAF"). Defendant Lisa Hamler-Fugitt ("Hamler-Fugitt") supervised and ultimately terminated all three Plaintiffs. At the core of the Complaint lies the allegation that Hamler-Fugitt retaliated against Plaintiffs as a result of Speakman speaking out against new leave policies instituted by Hamler-Fugitt by not only terminating his employment, but that of his husband and mother. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant Hamler-Fugitt discriminated against the three by terminating them due to their personal disabilities.

         Defendants move to sever the Plaintiffs' claims because each individual's claims arise based on their own separate disability. Plaintiffs assert that the claims are related and thus should be brought together.

         As relevant to the Motion before the Court, the Plaintiffs' individual allegations as taken from the Complaint are as follows.

         Speakman worked at OAF from July 2006 until his termination in January 2016. (Compl. ¶ 9.) At the time of his termination, he was Director of Community Services. (Id.) Speakman suffers from bipolar disorder, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome ("IBS"), and a degenerative disc condition in his back. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Elchert worked at OAF from September 2005 until his termination in February 2016. (Compl. ¶ 8.) At the time of his termination, he was Deputy Director of the organization. (Id.) Elchert was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer several years prior to his termination. (Id. ¶ 18.) While working at OAF, he had two major brain surgeries to remove tumors. (Id.) He also suffers from seizures. (Id.) In December 2016, Elchert and Speakman adopted newborn twins who were born prematurely. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Roscoe worked at OAF from July 2006 until her termination in March 2016. (Compl. ¶ 10.) At the time of her termination, she was manager of the Ohio Benefit Bank Hotline team. (Id.) Roscoe suffers from a heart condition and a serious lung disease; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"). (Id. ¶I5.)

         In December 2015, Hamler-Fugitt revised OAF's sick leave policy. Speakman "openly opposed" the new policy in an email to Hamler-Fugitt. (Id. ¶ 29.) Hamler-Fugitt instituted disciplinary proceedings against Speakman in the form of a first and second warning as well as a "plan for improvement." (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30.) After another incident in January 2016, Hamler-Fugitt placed Speakman on leave before officially terminating his employment on January 13, 2016. (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendants placed Elchert on administrative leave on January 11, 2016, until January 25, 2016, "purportedly to avoid any conflict of interest in the investigation of Mr. Speakman." (Id. ¶ 40.) Elchert's leave was thereafter extended until February 8, 2016. (Id. ¶ 41.) Defendants terminated Elchert's employment by mail on February 5, 2016. (Id. ¶ 42.) On March 7, 2016, Defendants terminated Roscoe's employment, stating that the termination was a "reduction of force." (Id. ¶44.)

         Plaintiffs allege that their terminations were die result of Defendants retaliating against Speakman and discriminating based on their individual disabilities.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 20(a) Permissive Joinder ...


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