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CAMPBELL v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION

September 6, 2001

KENNETH CAMPBELL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION (AMTRAK), ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") alleging that they, and the class they seek to represent, were subjected to a systematic pattern and practice of racial discrimination. Pending before this Court is Amtrak's motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, case law, and the argument in open court, it is hereby

ORDERED that the motion to dismiss is DENIED; and it is

FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for a more definite statement is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

Current and former union represented employees of Amtrak and applicants for union represented positions filed suit against Amtrak and fifteen unions. They assert their individual claims and seek to represent two classes. Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to a systemic pattern and practice of racial discrimination and racial harassment. The allegedly discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures present claims relating to discrimination in hiring, advancement, training, discipline, work and equipment assignments, and terms and conditions of employment, as well as, hostile working conditions based on race.
II. MOTION TO DISMISS
Amtrak moves to dismiss individual claims for each of the following independent reasons: 1) certain 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims are barred by the statute of limitations; 2) claims of plaintiffs who previously filed a charge involving the same conduct complained of here, but failed to sue, are barred by the statute of limitations in their right-to-sue letters; 3) certain Title VII claims are barred by the statute of limitations; and 4) claims which do not allege a timeframe fail to state Title VII claims.*fn1 Amtrak also moves for a more definite statement with respect to certain allegations. Plaintiffs incorrectly assert that Amtrak's motion to dismiss should be converted to a summary judgment motion; therefore, plaintiffs' request for discovery to respond to a motion for summary judgment is denied.*fn2

A. Statute of Limitations for § 1981 Claims

Plaintiffs allege that "Amtrak has discriminated against the named Plaintiffs and all members of the proposed classes by denying them the same rights as are enjoyed by white non-exempt employees and applicants for non-exempt employment in the making, performance, modifications and termination of their employment relationship with Amtrak and to the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions of that relationship, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as amended." Plaintiffs raised, but the parties did not adequately address, whether the statute of limitations for § 1981 claims are subject to the statute of limitations borrowed from D.C. Code § 12-301(8), which is three years, or the federal four-year default statue of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 1658. The Court requested additional briefing on this issue. In the supplemental briefing the parties contested the applicability of 28 U.S.C. § 1658 to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims. The issues are framed as follows: 1) whether 28 U.S.C. § 1658 applies to any cause of action arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, P.L. 102-166 § 101, 105 Stat 1071 (1991); and 2) if 28 U.S.C. § 1658 does apply to claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, to which claims does it apply.
Courts considering claims under § 1981 have historically applied the state personal injury statute of limitations because § 1981 does not contain a statute of limitations, see Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., 482 U.S. 656, 107 S.Ct. 2617, 96 L.Ed.2d 572 (1987). Plaintiffs argue that this well-settled proposition was altered by Congress' enactment of the federal default statute of limitations, and then the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Section 1658 states that
[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law, a civil action arising under an Act of Congress enacted after the date of the enactment of this section [December 1, 1990] may not be commenced later than 4 years after the cause of action accrues.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was amended in 1991 by the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Before 1991, § 1981 stated that:
[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like ...

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