Willitts v. GDF Suez Energy North America Inc./Engie North America, Inc.
Judge Allison D. Burroughs: MEMORANDUM AND ORDER entered. Engie's motion to dismiss, [ECF No. 17 ], is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, Willitts' motion for leave to amend, [ECF No. 19 ], is DENIED, and Willitts' motion for corporate disclosure, [ECF No. 21 ], is DENIED as moot.SO ORDERED. (McDonagh, Christina)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
JAMES A. WILLITTS, SR.,
ENGIE NORTH AMERICA INC.,
Civil Action No. 20-cv-11255-ADB
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff James A. Willitts, Sr., who is proceeding pro se, brings this action against his
former employer, Defendant Engie North America Inc. (“Engie”). [ECF No. 14 (“Am.
Compl.”)]. Willitts alleges, among other things, that Engie discriminated against him and
interfered with certain of his federally-protected rights. [Id.]. Currently before the Court are
Engie’s motion to dismiss, [ECF No. 17], Willitts’ motion for leave to file a second amended
complaint, [ECF No. 19], and Willitts’ motion for corporate disclosure, [ECF No. 21]. For the
reasons set forth below, Engie’s motion, [ECF No. 17], is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part, and Willitts’ motions, [ECF Nos. 19, 21], are DENIED.
For purposes of this Order, the Court draws the relevant facts from Willitts’ operative
complaint, [Am. Compl.], and views them in the light most favorable to him, Ruivo v. Wells
Fargo Bank, N.A., 766 F.3d 87, 90 (1st Cir. 2014).
On April 22, 2014, Willitts began working for GDF Suez Energy North America Inc.
(“GDF Suez”) at the Pinetree Power Fitchburg Biomass Generating Plant (the “Plant”). 1 [Am.
Compl. at 1]. 2 GDF Suez management began harassing Willitts soon after he started working at
the Plant. [Id. at 2]. Specifically, management encouraged Willitts to badmouth his shift
supervisor, whom management had falsely accused of performing poorly and causing issues at
the Plant. [Id.]. When Willitts refused to speak ill of his shift supervisor, management got angry
and retaliated. [Id.]. Willitts and “Dennis” formed the strongest shift at the Plant, avoiding
human error, safety violations, and turbine trips. 3 [Id. at 2]. To punish Willitts, management
split them up, and Willitts was forced to work under Mike O’Rourke, who was unskilled, likely
had his job only because he was friends with a plant manager, and was the worst shift supervisor
that Willitts had ever worked with. [Id.]. When Willitts complained about O’Rourke—for
making racist comments and being incompetent—management told Willitts that O’Rourke was
“funny” and encouraged Willitts to “grow some thick skin.” [Id. at 2–3].
Sometime in the spring or summer of 2015, the Plant’s employees voted on whether to
unionize. [Am. Compl. at 2]. Management retaliated against employees, including Willitts, who
voted in favor of unionization, falsely accusing them of performance issues and threatening
termination. [Id. at 2, 7–8]. This exacerbated Willitts’ existing struggles with depression,
anxiety, and stress. [Id. at 8]. To cope, he began seeing a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with
Based on the parties’ filings, it appears as though GDF Suez changed its name to Engie in
2016. Willitts seemingly wishes to sue both entities, but it is unclear whether GDF Suez still
exists. Moreover, there was only one summons returned executed, [ECF No. 10], and Engie
represents that it was the entity served with the complaint, see [ECF No. 17 at 1 n.1].
The Court cites to the amended complaint by page numbers because certain allegations do not
have a corresponding paragraph number.
It is unclear whether “Dennis” was Willitts’ colleague or supervisor.
Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (“ADHD”). [Id.]. He then told Engie about his ADHD
diagnosis. [Id.]. Still irritated with Willitts for voting in favor of unionization, Engie
management solicited complaints about Willitts, both general ones and ones related to his
ADHD, from his shift supervisors. [Id.].
At a September 9, 2016 meeting, Willitts’ manager criticized Willitts’ job performance
and described his attitude as poor even though Willitts’ performance had not been questioned
before and there was nothing in his personnel file that reflected poor performance. [Am. Compl.
at 5]. The manager told Willitts that he was being issued a written warning, which had already
been passed along to Engie’s corporate human resources department in Houston, Texas. [Id.].
Under Engie’s disciplinary procedures, a written warning should have been preceded by two
verbal warnings, documented in Willitts’ personnel file, and a formal discussion. [Id. at 5–6].
Willitts was also demoted and forced to work under a newly-promoted supervisor, whom Willitts
had recently seen violate safety procedures. [Id. at 6]. This incident gave Willitts panic attacks
and caused him severe anxiety and stress. [Id.].
On or around September 15, 2016, Willitts requested medical leave under the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). 4 [Am. Compl. at 3]. Engie falsely described his claim as
non-work-related, and opened and closed it quickly, and then misled Willitts by suggesting to
him that his claim was still open when it had already been closed. [Id.]. On December 6, 2016,
Engie terminated Willitts even though he was still under medical care and would not be able to
return to work until January 1, 2017. [Am. Compl. at 3].
Although the complaint is not clear, it appears as though Willitts requested FMLA leave based
on his ADHD, depression, anxiety, and/or stress.
On March 24, 2017, Willitts filed a complaint against Engie with the Massachusetts
Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), [Am. Compl. at 1], and on May 5, 2020, the
MCAD dismissed his claim, [id. at 4]. Since his termination, Willitts has been unable to find
another job in the power generation business because Engie has disseminated false information
about him to prospective employers. [Id.]. Additionally, he has continued to suffer from
depression, anxiety, and stress. [Id. at 7].
Willitts initiated this action on June 30, 2020. [ECF No. 1]. After the Court granted
Engie’s motion for a more definite statement, [ECF No. 13], Willitts filed the operative,
six-count complaint on December 29, 2020, [Am. Compl.]. He brings the following claims:
(1) abuse of power (Count I), [id. at 5–7]; (2) breach of confidentiality (Count II), [id. at 7–9];
(3) “civil rights action” (Count III), 5 [id. at 9]; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress
(“IIED”) (Count IV), [id. at 9–10]; (5) invasion of privacy (Count V), [id. at 10–11]; and
(6) “discrimination” (Count VI), 6 [id. at 11–12]. Engie moved to dismiss on January 19, 2021.
[ECF No. 17]. On February 3, 2021, Willitts opposed the motion to dismiss, [ECF No. 20], and
sought leave to file a second amended complaint, [ECF No. 19]. Additionally, two days later,
Willitts moved for a corporate disclosure statement. [ECF No. 21].
Willitts seemingly seeks to bring claims for violations of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act
(“MCRA”) and the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). [Am. Compl. at 9].
Willitts appears to assert claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), the FMLA, Massachusetts
General Laws Chapter 151B, § 4, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
[Am. Compl. at 11–12].
ENGIE’S MOTION TO DISMISS
In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all
well-pleaded facts, analyze those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all
reasonable factual inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Gilbert v. City of Chicopee, 915 F.3d
74, 80 (1st Cir. 2019). “[D]etailed factual allegations” are not required, but the complaint must
set forth “more than labels and conclusions,” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007), and must contain “factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material
element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory,” Gagliardi v. Sullivan,
513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc. v. Feliciano de
Melecio, 406 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2005)). The alleged facts must be sufficient to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
“To cross the plausibility threshold a claim does not need to be probable, but it must give
rise to more than a mere possibility of liability.” Grajales v. P.R. Ports Auth., 682 F.3d 40,
44–45 (1st Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “A determination of
plausibility is ‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.’” Id. at 44 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). “[T]he complaint
should be read as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in
isolation, is plausible . . . .” Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 103 (1st Cir. 2013)
(quoting Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 14 (1st Cir. 2011)). “The plausibility
standard invites a two-step pavane.” A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc., 732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st
Cir. 2013) (citing Grajales, 682 F.3d at 45). First, the Court “must separate the complaint’s
factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which
need not be credited).” Id. (quoting Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir.
2012)). Second, the Court “must determine whether the remaining factual content allows a
‘reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.’” Id. (quoting
Morales-Cruz, 676 F.3d at 224).
Affirmative defenses, such as the statute of limitations, may be raised in a motion
to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), provided that the facts
establishing the defense [are] clear on the face of the plaintiff's pleadings. Where
the dates included in the complaint show that the limitations period has been
exceeded and the complaint fails to sketch a factual predicate that would warrant
the application of either a different statute of limitations period or equitable
estoppel, dismissal is appropriate.
Trans-Spec Truck Serv., Inc. v. Caterpillar Inc., 524 F.3d 315, 320 (1st Cir. 2008) (alteration in
original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Because Willitts is proceeding pro se, the Court holds his “pleadings to less demanding
standards than those drafted by lawyers and endeavors, within reasonable limits, to guard against
the loss of pro se claims due to technical defects.” Santiago v. Action for Bos. Cmty. Dev., Inc.,
No 17-cv-12249, 2018 WL 5635014, at *2 (D. Mass. Oct. 31, 2018) (quoting Dutil v. Murphy,
550 F.3d 154, 158 (1st Cir. 2008)). The Court also must generously construe the arguments in
Plaintiff’s briefing. Bahiakina v. U.S. Postal Serv., 102 F. Supp. 3d 369, 371 (D. Mass. 2015)
(“[A] document filed pro se is to be liberally construed . . . .” (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007))). However, a pro se litigant still must comply with procedural and
substantive law. Ahmed v. Rosenblatt, 118 F.3d 886, 890 (1st Cir. 1997). Dismissal of a pro se
complaint is appropriate when the complaint fails to state an actionable claim. Muller v. Bedford
VA Admin. Hosp., No. 11-cv-10510, 2013 WL 702766, at *3 (D. Mass. Feb. 25, 2013) (citing
Overton v. Torruella, 183 F. Supp. 2d 295, 303 (D. Mass. 2001)).
Engie moves to dismiss all six counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). [ECF No. 17]. Willitts opposes the motion in its entirety. See [ECF No. 20].
Count I: Abuse of Power
Engie argues that abuse of power is not a cognizable cause of action and, even if it were,
it would be time-barred. [ECF No. 18 at 4, 4 n.4]. Willitts responds that he intended to assert an
abuse of process claim and that because he timely filed his MCAD complaint, which included his
abuse of process-related allegations, there is no statute of limitations issue. [ECF No. 20 at 1,
Given that Willitts is proceeding pro se, the Court will credit Willitts’ representation that
he intended to assert an abuse of process rather than an abuse of power claim. See Santiago,
2018 WL 5635014, at *2. Even viewing the claim as one for abuse of process, however, the
allegations in the complaint are deficient. In Massachusetts, the “elements of an abuse of
process claim are that: ‘(1) “process” was used; (2) for an ulterior or illegitimate purpose; (3)
resulting in damage.’” Harnois v. Univ. of Mass. at Dartmouth, No. 19-cv-10705, 2019 WL
5551743, at *12 (D. Mass. Oct. 28, 2019) (quoting Gutierrez v. Mass. Bay Transp. Auth., 772
N.E.2d 552, 563 (Mass. 2002)). “Cases recognizing abuse of process claims have been limited
to three types of process: writs of attachment, the process used to institute a civil action, and the
process related to bringing criminal charges.” Id. (quoting Alphas Co. v. Kilduff, 888 N.E.2d
1003, 1013 (Mass. App. Ct. 2008)). Here, Willitts’ claim, which is largely based on Engie’s
failure to abide by its internal disciplinary policies, [Am. Compl. at 5–6], and its decision to
demote him, [id. at 6], does not allege that Engie sought a writ of attachment, sued him in a civil
action, or initiated criminal charges against him. Willitts cannot sustain an abuse of process
claim without allegations of any process. Because Willitts’ claim fails as a matter of law,
Engie’s motion to dismiss Count I is GRANTED.
Count II: Breach of Confidentiality
With regard to Count II, Engie asserts that Massachusetts does not recognize a claim for
breach of confidentiality and that, even if it did, Willitts’ claim would be time-barred. [ECF No.
18 at 4, 4 n.5]. Willitts counters that there is a cause of action for breach of confidentiality and
that his claim is not time-barred because his timely-filed MCAD complaint tolled any statute of
limitations. [ECF No. 20 at 4].
Willitts bases his breach of confidentiality claim on the fact that his managers disclosed
his ADHD to his shift supervisors without his permission. [Am. Compl. at 8]. The Court is not
aware of a state or federal cause of action that provides redress for an employee who has
voluntarily provided health information to an employer who subsequently shared the information
with other employees. Further, the authority that Willitts cites, see [ECF No. 20 at 4], does not
support his position. In Alberts v. Devine, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”)
unless faced with a serious danger to the patient or to others, a physician owes a
patient a duty not to disclose without the patient’s consent medical information
about the patient gained in the course of the professional relationship, and the
violation of that duty gives rise to a civil action for whatever damages flow
therefrom [and] a civil action will lie against anyone who, with the requisite state
of mind, induces a violation of the physician’s duty of confidentiality and thereby
causes injury or loss to the patient . . . .
479 N.E.2d 113, 115 (Mass. 1985). Here, because there was no disclosure by a physician, this
case is inapposite. Similarly, the statute that Willitts cites, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter
112, § 129A, also does not support his claim against Engie because it concerns a psychologist’s
duties of confidentiality and does not apply more generally to an employer. Finally, Willitts’
argument that his Engie managers violated HIPAA does not save his claim because it is well
established that HIPAA does not create a private right of action. See Miller v. Nichols, 586 F.3d
53, 59 (1st Cir. 2009); Spencer v. Roche, 755 F. Supp. 2d 250, 271 (D. Mass. 2010).
Thus, because Willitts has failed to state a claim for breach of confidentiality, Engie’s
motion to dismiss Count II is GRANTED.
Count III: Civil Rights Action
Willitts bases Count III on Engie’s conduct in connection with the vote to unionize the
Plant’s employees. [Am. Compl. at 9]. In support, he cites the MCRA’s prohibition on threats,
intimidation, and coercion and his view that the NLRA guarantees him a right to join a union
without interference, restraint, or coercion. [Id.]. Engie responds that Willitts’ MCRA claim is
time-barred and that the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has exclusive jurisdiction
over a claim under the NLRA for unfair labor practices. [ECF No. 18 at 5–6]. Willitts does not
address Engie’s NLRB argument, but maintains that his claim is not time-barred because of his
timely-filed MCAD complaint. [ECF No. 20 at 4–5].
MCRA claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch.
260, § 5B (“Actions arising on account of violations of any law intended for the protection of
civil rights . . . shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action
accrues.”); Watson v. Mita, No. 16-cv-40133, 2017 WL 4365986, at *3 (D. Mass. Sept. 29,
2017) (“The Massachusetts Civil Rights Act is subject to the three-year limitations period . . . .”).
“The MCRA statute of limitation begins running once a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of
the alleged wrongful acts.” Sampson v. Town of Salisbury, 441 F. Supp. 2d 271, 275 (D. Mass.
2006). Here, where the alleged misconduct in connection with the union vote took place in
2015, [Am. Compl. at 7–8], Willitts was required to bring his MCRA claim no later than 2018. 7
He did not file his complaint in this case until June 2020. Accordingly, his MCRA claim is
Willitts’ NLRA claim also fails.
When a claim is brought regarding conduct which is arguably protected or
prohibited by the NLRA, federal court jurisdiction is generally preempted by the
jurisdiction of the [NLRB]. In San Diego Building Trades Council, Millmen’s
Union, Local 2020 v. Garmon, the Supreme Court explained that the purpose of
giving the NLRB exclusive jurisdiction over such matters was to allow for a
specialized central agency to adjudicate them so as to avoid incompatible and
conflicting rulings. Conduct which constitutes an unfair labor practice is covered
by the NLRA, and, consequently, the NLRB has exclusive jurisdiction over it as
long as it does not violate a separate federal law. Unfair labor practices are defined
by § 8 of the NLRA as conduct that will interfere with, restrain, or coerce
employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in § 157; and by discrimination
in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment
to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.
Geraigery v. Cambridge Sch. Dep’t, No. 06-cv-10410, 2006 WL 8458439, at *3 (D. Mass. Dec.
18, 2006) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), report and recommendation adopted,
Order Adopting Report and Recommendations, Geraigery v. Cambridge Sch. Dep’t, No. 06-cv10410 (D. Mass. Jan. 12, 2007); see also United States v. Burhoe, 871 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2017)
Willitts has not argued that he did not know or have reason to know about the allegedly
wrongful acts when they occurred in 2015 (nor could he credibly do so). For that reason, the
statute of limitations began to run in 2015.
Willitts cites no authority for the proposition that because he filed a complaint with the MCAD,
the MCRA’s statute of limitations is inapplicable to his claim. See [ECF No. 20 at 4–5]. First,
Willitts has not explained why he was required to (or had the option of) filing an MCAD
complaint instead of initiating a civil action. Second, although MCAD complaints generally
must be filed within 300 days of the allegedly unlawful conduct, see Brader v. Biogen Inc., 983
F.3d 39, 60 (1st Cir. 2020), Willitts did not file his until March 2017, [Am. Compl. at 1], more
than a year after Engie’s managers allegedly threatened, intimated, or coerced him in connection
with the union vote, see [id. at 7 (alleging union vote in “Spring and into the Summer of 2015”)].
Thus, at least with respect to alleged misconduct related to the union vote, his MCAD complaint
was not timely filed.
(noting that when conduct is subject to § 7 or § 8 of the NLRA, federal courts must generally
defer to the exclusive competence of the NLRB). Here, because Willitts alleges that Engie
interfered with rights guaranteed by the NLRA, the NLRB has exclusive jurisdiction over his
In sum, Willitts’ MCRA and NLRA claims both fail, and Engie’s motion to dismiss
Count III is therefore GRANTED.
Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)
Engie argues that Willitts’ IIED claim set forth in Count IV is time-barred and precluded
by the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”). [ECF No. 18 at 4,
7–9]. Willitts does not respond to Engie’s WCA argument, but maintains that his IIED claim is
timely because of his timely-filed MCAD complaint. [ECF No. 20 at 4–5].
Common law actions are barred by the exclusivity provision of the [WCA] where:
the plaintiff is shown to be an employee; his condition is shown to be a personal
injury within the meaning of the [WCA]; and the injury is shown to have arisen out
of and in the course of . . . employment.
Green v. Wyman-Gordon Co., 664 N.E.2d 808, 813 (Mass. 1996) (quoting Foley v. Polaroid
Corp., 413 N.E.2d 711, 713 (Mass. 1980)). Here, all three conditions are satisfied. Willitts
specifically alleges that Engie employed him, [Am. Compl. at 1], emotional distress is a
compensable personal injury under the WCA, see Green, 664 N.E.2d at 813; Mass. Gen. Laws
ch. 152, § 1(7A) (including the intentional infliction of emotional distress as a personal injury),
and Willitts’ allegations make clear that his emotional distress arose from his employment, see
[Am. Compl. at 9–10 (describing employment-related conduct as cause of emotional distress)].
Accordingly, Willitts’ IIED claim is barred by the WCA’s exclusivity provision. See Uwakwe v.
Pelham Acad., 286 F. Supp. 3d 213, 227–28 (D. Mass. 2017) (dismissing IIED claim because it
was barred by the WCA’s exclusivity provision); cf. Spencer v. Mass. Bay Trans. Auth., No.
17-cv-11229, 2019 WL 2394151, at *12 (D. Mass. June 5, 2019) (dismissing negligent infliction
of emotional distress claim because of the WCA). Engie’s motion to dismiss Count IV is
Count V: Invasion of Privacy
In Count V, Willitts alleges that Engie denied him his right to privacy by disclosing
private health information to his fellow employees at the Plant without his consent. 9 [Am.
Compl. at 10–11]. Engie argues that, to the extent Willitts’ complaint can be read as alleging a
cause of action under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 214, § 1B, that claim is time-barred.
[ECF No. 18 at 7]. Willitts again responds that his MCAD complaint tolls any applicable statute
of limitations. [ECF No. 20 at 4–5].
Although not specifically cited by Willitts, the Court presumes that he intended to bring
his claim under Chapter 214, § 1B, which provides that an individual “shall have a right against
unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his privacy.” Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 214,
§ 1B. This claim too is time-barred because invasion of privacy claims under § 1B must be
brought within three years. See Taylor v. Swartwout, 445 F. Supp. 2d 98, 104 (D. Mass. 2006);
Finney v. Madico, Inc., 674 N.E.2d 655, 659 (Mass. App. Ct. 1997). An invasion of privacy
claim based on the disclosure of private information accrues when the sensitive information is
disclosed. See Taylor, 445 F. Supp. 2d at 104 (citing Ayash v. Dana-Farber Cancer Inst., 822
N.E.2d 667, 681–82 (Mass. 2005)). Here, Willitts’ allegations make clear that the allegedly
wrongful disclosure occurred before he left the company in December 2016. See [Am. Compl.
at 8–11]. The three-year limitations period therefore ended no later than December 2019,
Willitts also cites HIPAA. For the reasons stated above, supra Section II.B.2., HIPAA does not
provide a private cause of action.
months before he filed the initial complaint in this action. Accordingly, Willitts’ invasion of
privacy claim is time-barred, and Engie’s motion to dismiss Count V is GRANTED. 10
Count VI: Discrimination
In Count VI, Willitts seems to assert a variety of discrimination claims, including claims
under the ADA, HIPAA, the FMLA, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 151B, § 4, and the
ADEA. [Am. Compl. at 11–12].
Willitts’ HIPAA, FMLA, and ADEA claims each fail. First, as stated above, HIPAA
does not provide a private right of action. Second, to the extent Willitts alleges an FMLA
violation, that claim is barred by res judicata because in another litigation involving Willitts and
Engie, Willitts’ FMLA claim against Engie was already dismissed on the merits. See Willits v.
Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., No. 18-cv-11908, 2021 WL 735784, at *5–6 (D. Mass. Feb. 25, 2021).
Third, as to the ADEA claim, because Willitts makes no allegations concerning his age or the
ages of any other Engie employees, see [Am. Compl.], he has failed to state a plausible ADEA
As discussed above, Willitts has cited no authority supporting his contention that all relevant
statutes of limitations were tolled while the MCAD reviewed his complaint, see [ECF No. 20 at
4–5], and the Court is aware of none. Further, other courts have considered whether invasion of
privacy claims were timely brought notwithstanding the fact that an MCAD complaint was filed.
See Finney, 674 N.E.2d at 659 (noting that plaintiff’s complaint, which was filed after “the
obligatory and timely filing with the [MCAD],” asserted an invasion of privacy claim, and then
proceeding to evaluate statute of limitations-based arguments).
In his brief opposing the motion to dismiss, Willitts states that he “would have documentation
for Discovery,” adding that Engie hired three younger equipment operators during his FMLA
leave. [ECF No. 20 at 3–4]. First, an opposition to a motion to dismiss is not the place for new
factual allegations. See Decoulos v. Town of Aquinnah, No. 17-cv-11532, 2018 WL 3553351, at
*12 (D. Mass. July 24, 2018) (“[Plaintiff] cannot bolster the allegations of the Amended
Complaint through the late addition of new facts in opposing a motion to dismiss.”). Second,
and more importantly, the fact that Engie hired three new employees that were in their 20s, while
Willitts was on medical leave, in no way suggests that Engie discriminated against Willitts
With respect to Willitts’ Chapter 151B claim, Engie argues that it is time-barred because
the complaint in this action was filed more than three years after the alleged unlawful
discrimination. [ECF No. 18 at 12]. Willitts again counters that his Chapter 151B claim is
timely because of his timely-filed MCAD complaint. [ECF No. 20 at 4–5].
Pursuant to Chapter 151B § 9,
[a]ny person claiming to be aggrieved by a practice made unlawful under [Chapter
151B] . . . or by any other unlawful practice within the jurisdiction of the
commission, may, at the expiration of ninety days after the filing of a complaint
with the commission, or sooner if a commissioner assents in writing, but not later
than three years after the alleged unlawful practice occurred, bring a civil action for
damages or injunctive relief . . . .
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 9. This three-year limitations period applies even if the MCAD’s
review of the complaint is pending. Goldstein v. Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hosp., Inc., 80
F. Supp. 3d 317, 324 (D. Mass. 2015) (“Chapter 151B clearly requires that a lawsuit must be
filed within three years of the alleged unlawful practice, even if the MCAD has not finished its
review of the related complaint.”). “[A] plaintiff need not wait for the resolution of the MCAD
investigation” before initiating a civil suit under Chapter 151B. Id. Here, Willitts seems to have
believed that he could not sue until the MCAD resolved his complaint. See [ECF No. 14 at 4
(“The (MCAD) Claim was DISMISSED on May 5, 2020. The DISMISSAL allowed [Willitts]
to File this Discrimination Case in Federal Court on June 30, 2020.” (emphasis removed))].
Despite Willitts’ error, the Court remains bound by the plain language of the statute, 12 under
because of his age. Plaintiffs alleging age discrimination must do more than simply allege that a
younger employee was hired.
Willitts also seems to argue that the three-year statute of limitations applies only in state court,
see [ECF No. 20 at 3], but this argument is unavailing. As demonstrated by Goldstein, the
three-year limitations period is equally applicable in federal court.
which the claim is time-barred because it is premised on alleged unlawful practices that took
place more than three years before the original complaint was filed. 13
Finally, although the complaint is not entirely clear, Willitts appears to premise his ADA
claim on both Engie’s failure to provide him with a reasonable accommodation and the fact that
Engie demoted him in or around September 2016 because of his alleged disabilities. [Am.
Compl. at 5–6, 11–12]. The elements of a reasonable accommodation ADA claim are: (1) the
plaintiff is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the plaintiff could perform the job’s
essential functions either with or without a reasonable accommodation; and (3) the employer was
aware of the disability but failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. See Lang v. Wal-Mart
Stores E., L.P., 813 F.3d 447, 454 (1st Cir. 2016). The elements of an ADA discrimination claim
are identical except for the third element; a plaintiff must show that he was fired or otherwise
adversely impacted because of his disability. See Echevarría v. AstraZeneca Pharm. LP, 856
F.3d 119, 126 (1st Cir. 2017).
Given the lenient pleading standard in civil cases and the additional deference that is
afforded to pro se litigants, see supra Section II.A., the Court finds that Willitts’ factual
allegations are sufficient to state a plausible ADA claim. Although it is difficult to ascertain
from the complaint what disability Willitts is referring to (i.e., depression, anxiety, stress, and/or
ADHD), when precisely Willitts believes he became disabled, when he told Engie about his
There are a handful of allegations in the complaint concerning Engie’s conduct after Willitts
was fired in December 2016, see, e.g., [Am. Compl. at 3 (“[Engie] continued misleading
[Willitts] and [his] attorney for over three plus years while trying to settle a Claim”); id. at 4
(“[Willitts] has been told that Managers of [Engie] have made false or misleading statements to
employees of ENGIE and or managers of other companies to intentionally harm [Willitts] of
seeking employment with other Power Generation plants or businesses”); id. at 6 (“Engie was
Falsely misleading [Willitts] to believe that the Claim was still open for years”)], but Willitts has
not alleged that such conduct took place after June 30, 2017, and the alleged conduct does not
plausibly suggest unlawful discrimination in any case.
purported disability, and what kind of reasonable accommodation he sought, [Am. Compl. at
7–9, 11–12], the best reading is that Willitts’ alleged disability is his ADHD, that he informed
Engie management of his disability in or around September 2016, and that he sought a
reasonable accommodation in the form of a leave of absence (or an extension of his FMLA
leave). Further, Willitts’ allegations suggest that he would have been able to resume working at
Engie by January 2017. [Id. at 3]. In substance, Willitts has alleged that he requested an
approximately four-month leave of absence from work to deal with his depression, anxiety,
stress, and/or ADHD, and that, instead of providing it, Engie fired him in early December 2016.
“[A] leave of absence or a leave extension can constitute a reasonable accommodation under the
ADA ‘in some circumstances.’” Echevarría, 856 F.3d at 128 (quoting García-Ayala v. Lederle
Parenterals, Inc., 212 F.3d 638, 647 (1st Cir. 2000)). Whether a leave request is reasonable is
fact-dependent, see García-Ayala, 212 F.3d at 647 (citing Criado v. IBM Corp., 145 F.3d 437,
443 (1st Cir. 1998)), and therefore not susceptible to resolution on a motion to dismiss.
Assuming his allegations are true, Willitts has stated a plausible ADA claim, 14 and Engie’s
motion to dismiss Count VI must therefore be DENIED. 15
Willitts has also stated a plausible ADA discrimination claim. Specifically, that Engie
demoted him because of his ADHD.
Engie’s arguments in favor of dismissal are unpersuasive. First, Engie argues that Willitts’
ADA claim must be dismissed because he has failed to adequately allege that he could perform
the essential functions of his position at Engie with or without a reasonable accommodation and,
in fact, has taken other action (e.g., filing workers’ compensation claims) suggesting that he has
been completely disabled since September 2016. [ECF No. 18 at 13–17]. Willitts’ allegations,
however, suggest that, with a reasonable accommodation (i.e., a leave of absence until January
2017), he could have performed his job. Further, although Engie’s argument concerning
Willitts’ purportedly inconsistent positions may well carry the day at summary judgment, it does
not carry the day at the motion to dismiss stage. Consistent with this, the cases relied upon by
Engie were all decided on summary judgment. See Sullivan v. Raytheon Co., 262 F.3d 41 (1st
Cir. 2001); August v. Offs. Unlimited, Inc., 981 F.2d 576 (1st Cir. 1992); [ECF No. 18 at 14–16
(citing Sullivan and August)]. Thus, while Willitts will have to explain these apparent
Willets first moves for leave to amend his operative complaint.
A motion for leave to amend is considered under Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), which
provides that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires. The
limited reasons for denying a pre-judgment motion to amend include undue delay,
bad faith, futility and the absence of due diligence on the movant’s part.
Libby v. Park, Marion and Vernon Sts. Operating Co., 278 F. Supp. 3d 501, 504 (D. Mass. 2017)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
The Court can detect only three differences between the operative complaint and Willitts’
proposed second amended complaint: (1) relabeling his “abuse of power” claim as an “abuse of
process” claim, [ECF No. 19-1 at 7]; (2) relabeling his IIED claim as a “negligence –
supervision” claim, [id. at 14]; and (3) the addition of argument concerning res judicata in the
“Prayer for Relief” section, [id. at 18–19]. All three proposed amendments are futile. First, the
Court has already construed Willitts’ claim as one for abuse of process and found that he has
failed to state a viable claim. See supra Section II.B.1. Second, regardless of whether Willitts’
claim is for IIED or negligent supervision, it is barred by the WCA. See Choroszy v. Wentworth
Inst. of Tech., 915 F. Supp. 446, 452 (D. Mass. 1996) (noting that even assuming negligent
supervision is a valid tort claim under Massachusetts law, it would be barred by the WCA
because that statute “prevents an employee from bringing common-law tort claims against his
employer for work-related injuries unless the employee has reserved his right to do so”). Third,
inconsistencies at some point, he need not do so at this stage of the litigation. Second, Engie
seems to argue that Willitts’ ADA claim must be dismissed because he has not alleged that he
received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
[ECF No. 18 at 11–12 n.9]. This argument fails, however, because Willitts has alleged that the
MCAD issued one. See [Am. Compl. at 1]; Cloutier v. City of Lowell, No. 15-cv-12780, 2015
WL 8751334, at *7 (D. Mass. Dec. 14, 2015) (noting that a plaintiff can exhaust their
administrative remedies with respect to an ADA claim with the MCAD or the EEOC).
a complaint is not the place for legal arguments, and in any case, the argument does not change
the fact that his FMLA claim has already been decided on the merits and is therefore precluded
by res judicata. Accordingly, Willitts’ motion for leave to amend, [ECF No. 19], is DENIED.
In his second motion, Willitts seeks information from Engie regarding (1) document
preservation and (2) the corporate ownership of the Plant. [ECF No. 21]. Because Willitts can
seek this information, to the extent it is relevant to his remaining claim, through ordinary
discovery channels, his motion is DENIED as moot.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, Engie’s motion to dismiss, [ECF No. 17], is
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, Willitts’ motion for leave to amend, [ECF No. 19], is
DENIED, and Willitts’ motion for corporate disclosure, [ECF No. 21], is DENIED as moot.
June 7, 2021
/s/ Allison D. Burroughs
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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