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Campbell v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation

September 26, 2002


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


Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak") moves to dismiss individual claims of certain named plaintiffs in the third amended complaint. Amtrak alleges that plaintiffs have retained these claims in violation of this Court's September 6, 2001 Memorandum Opinion and Order ("Order"). Upon careful consideration of Amtrak's motion to dismiss, the opposition and reply thereto, the supplemental briefing with respect to the applicability of National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 122 S. Ct. 2061 (June 10, 2002), the entire record herein, and the applicable statutory and case law, the Court denies Amtrak's motion.

I. Background

Plaintiffs in this action are current and former Amtrak employees. Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against Amtrak and fifteen unions, in which they claim that the defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of racially discriminatory conduct. The complaint alleges racial discrimination in hiring, advancement, training, discipline, work and equipment assignment, and terms and condition of employment, as well as a hostile working environment created by defendants' racially discriminatory conduct. See Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 115-23.

On September 6, 2001, the Court issued a memorandum opinion and order resolving defendant Amtrak's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. See Campbell v. Nat'l Railroad Passenger Corp., 163 F. Supp. 2d 19 (D.D.C. 2001). The Court denied the motion to dismiss, and denied in part and granted in part the motion for a more definite statement. Id. at 21. The Court further permitted plaintiffs to file an amended complaint reflecting the Court's ruling. Id. at 26.

In large part, the instant motion to dismiss turns on the parties' different interpretations of the Court's rulings with respect to defendant's statute of limitations defenses. In its Order, this Court held that plaintiffs' Title VII claims arising prior to April 4, 1996 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims arising prior to November 9, 1996 were time-barred. Id. at 25, 27. The Court added that its holding on the statute of limitations did not exclude the possibility of the application of the continuing violation doctrine upon further development of the factual record. Id. at 26.

The Court's Order also held that individual plaintiffs could not maintain Title VII claims with expired right-to-sue notices by piggy-backing these claims on the charges of fellow plaintiffs under the single-file rule. Campbell, 163 F. Supp. 2d at 26. To do so, the Court held, would "seriously undermine the statute of limitations established for such actions." Id. The Court noted, however, that, after further development of the factual record, it would entertain the viability of equitable tolling of the statute of limitation for particular claims. Id.

Amtrak moves to dismiss Quinton Saunders' claims of discriminatory termination. Amtrak contends that the continuing violation theory does not apply and that, consequently, Mr. Saunders' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. In addition, Amtrak moves to dismiss the Title VII claims asserted by six plaintiffs, arguing that these individual plaintiffs' claims are based on expired right-to-sue notices. Amtrak also argues that the claims of three plaintiffs are covered by the settlement agreement in McLaurin v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., and should therefore be dismissed.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only that a complaint include a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The Supreme Court recently emphasized that, to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff need not plead facts beyond those which would "'give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 122 S. Ct. 992, 998 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957)).

The Court will not grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46; Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Accordingly, at this stage of the proceedings, the Court accepts as true all of the complaint's factual allegations. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984); accord Does v. United States Dep't of Justice, 753 F.2d 1092, 1102 (D.C. Cir. 1985). Plaintiff is entitled to "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. However, the movant is entitled to judgment if there are no allegations in the complaint which, even if proven would provide a basis for recovery. Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1254 (1987).

III. Motion to Dismiss Individual Claims of Certain Plaintiffs

A. Quinton Saunders' Termination Claims

Amtrak argues that Quinton Saunders' claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Mr. Saunders alleges that Amtrak's termination of his employment was racially discriminatory and in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981. He contends that his claims are saved by virtue of the continuing violations doctrine, and that he was not aware of the discriminatory nature of the termination until his grievance was decided against him in May 1997. See Opp'n at 4. Mr. Saunders specifically alleges that he was "adversely affected by the systemic pattern and practice of racial ...

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