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Bahta v. Renaissance Hotel Operating Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

January 27, 2016

ROSA BAHTA, Plaintiff,


          LIAM O'GRADY, District Judge.

         Rosa Bahta, a long-time employee of the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel, sued after she was terminated in the wake of a violent altercation with another employee. Pending before the Court is Defendant Renaissance Hotel Operating Company's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment and Ms. Bahta's motion for leave to file an untimely responsive pleading. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 21). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78 and Local Rule 7(J), the Court will dispense with an oral hearing and rule on the briefs submitted. For the reasons that follow, the Court will consider Ms. Bahta's late-filed opposition, treat Defendant's motion as one for summary judgment, and grant that motion.

         I. Background

         The Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel ("Renaissance") employed Rosa Bahta for more than twenty years. On December 21, 2013, a fellow employee, Desta Araya, attacked Bahta and she suffered injuries as a result. After the altercation, Bahta alleges that Renaissance staff instructed her not to call 911, but to instead report the incident to hotel security. Bahta Aff. ¶ 4. Bahta also alleges that Araya had a long history of abusing his coworkers and that Renaissance had failed to discipline or otherwise deter him. In her affidavit, Bahta recalls that Araya "exhibited ill will" toward her on approximately ten to fifteen different occasions. Id. ¶ 3. She reported this "bad blood" to a supervisor and requested that she be separated from Araya, but the request was denied. Id.

         On January 11, 2014, Renaissance terminated Bahta, for what Bahta believes was "without cause and because she was a victim of that crime." Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Bahta appealed the termination decision to a Peer Review Panel. Bahta Aff. ¶ 1. On January 23, the panel issued a letter affirming the termination decision. Bahta Aff., Ex. 1.

         At the time of her termination, Bahta was fifty-five years old. In the time since she was fired, she has not had an income and has been "treated by various medical professionals for severe, continuing physical, mental, and emotional injuries." Bahta Aff. ¶ 10. Bahta did file a complaint with the Washington, D.C. Department of Employment Services ("DOES") Office of Workers' Compensation, which resulted in an $85, 000 lump-sum payment. Ex. C, Def.'s Mtn. Summ. J.

         Bahta filed this federal action on January 23, 2015 and subsequently filed an amended complaint on October 2, 2015. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 10). On December 2, 2015, Renaissance moved to dismiss the complaint or, alternatively, for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 16). Renaissance attached three exhibits to its motion. Exhibit A is a copy of the hotel's employee handbook, dated August 2013. Exhibit B is Ms. Bahta's executed "Acknowledgement of the Renaissance Washington D.C. Hotel Policies" dated April 24, 1996. Exhibit C is a copy of DOES' approval of the $85, 000 lump-sum worker's compensation payment.

         On January 15, 2016, Bahta filed an opposition as an attachment to her motion for leave to file an untimely opposition. (Dkt. No. 21). Included with the opposition is an affidavit from Bahta and the letter from Renaissance's Peer Review Panel affirming the termination decision. Renaissance has opposed the untimely opposition. (Dkt. No. 22).

         II. Plaintiff's Delay in Filing a Responsive Pleading

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)(B) permits courts to extend deadlines on a motion made after the time to file has expired upon finding good cause and excusable neglect. In determining whether excusable neglect exists, the Court considers: (1) "the danger of prejudice to the [nonmoving party], " (2) "the length of delay and its potential impact on judicial proceedings, " (3) "the reason for the delay, including whether it was within the reasonable control of the movant, " and (4) "whether the movant acted in good faith." Pioneer Inv. Servs. Co. v. Brunswick Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 507 U.S. 380, 395 (1993).

         While counsel's suggestion that his busy schedule preparing for "other intervening court deadlines" is not an adequate justification for the delay, counsel has also represented to the Court that "additional time [was] necessitated by Plaintiff and her Counsel having different native tongues." (Dkt. No. 21, at 2). Indeed, most of the arguments in Ms. Banta's opposition rely on her seven-page affidavit.

         While the reason for delay may not present extraordinary circumstances, the Court finds that the remaining factors provide a sufficient counterbalance to any deficiency in the cause for delay. First, there is no prejudice to the nonmoving party. In its opposition, Renaissance explains its concern is that the Court's acceptance of the late-filed opposition will require devoting additional resources to a reply brief or alternatively, will cause postponement of oral argument. The Court has dispensed with an oral hearing, however, and this decision will issue close in time to the date that the previously scheduled hearing was set to occur. Moreover, the Court does not believe a reply brief is needed. In fact, it is to Renaissance's benefit for the Court to consider the opposition because it is the opposition and the documents attached that confirm judgment in favor of Renaissance is warranted. Second, while the delay was nearly a month, it will have no impact on the proceedings for the reasons already explained. Finally, the Court finds an absence of bad faith. In sum, the Court finds cause exists to consider the late filing.

         III. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively ...

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