United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has
moved to strike or dismiss Plaintiffs' class allegations
and to dismiss Count II of the Amended Complaint. WMATA
argues that Plaintiffs failed to move for class certification
within the time limit imposed by this Court's Local
Rules. WMATA also argues that it is immune from
Plaintiffs' age discrimination claims. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.
Accordingly, it will strike Plaintiffs' class claims and
dismiss Count II of the Amended Complaint for lack of
Rule of Civil Procedure 23.1(b) requires a plaintiff to move
for certification under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c)(1) within 90 days
of filing the first complaint bringing a class-wide claim.
E.g., Sakyi v. Estee Lauder Cos., 298
F.Supp.3d 16, 17-18 (D.D.C. 2018). “Local Rule 23.1(b)
and its predecessors have been strictly applied in this
Circuit.” Howard v. Gutierrez, 474 F.Supp.2d
41, 53 (D.D.C. 2007); see also McCarthy v.
Kleindienst, 741 F.2d 1406, 1411 (D.C. Cir. 1984)
(explaining that the 90-day deadline “implements the
policy behind the already extant requirement of Fed.R.Civ.P.
23(c)(1) that class certification decisions be made as soon
as practicable”) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). Here, Plaintiffs raised class-wide claims in their
first complaint, which they filed on June 6, 2019.
See ECF No. 1 ¶ 12. Therefore, they had to move
for class certification by September 4, 2019. They failed to
do so. They also failed to seek an extension from the Court
or explain why, before responding to the instant motion,
class certification should be saved for a later time.
“Serious consequences often flow from a fair
application of time limits, and that is the case here.”
Howard, 474 F.Supp.2d at 57 n.11. Because Plaintiffs
offer no persuasive reasons to excuse their neglect, see,
e.g., id. at 55- 57, the Court will grant
Defendant's motion and strike the class allegations from
the Amended Complaint, see Artis v. Yellen, 309
F.R.D. 69, 73 (D.D.C. 2015).
Count II: Age Discrimination Claim
D.C. Circuit precedent, the Eleventh Amendment renders WMATA
immune from suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act of 1967 (ADEA). Jones v. Washington Metro. Area
Transit Auth., 205 F.3d 428, 431-32 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
Plaintiffs make several attempts to circumvent this holding.
First, they argue that the Supreme Court's decision in
Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, 139 S.Ct. 22
(2018), abrogated Jones. ECF No. 7 at 12- 13. The
Court disagrees. Guido's holding was narrow; it
focused exclusively on the ADEA definition of
“employer.” See Guido, 139 S.Ct. at
25-26. It never so much as cited Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of
Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 91 (holding that the ADEA did not
validly abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity),
the decision on which the Jones court relied.
Moreover, the passage in Guido to which Plaintiffs
point cites the Supreme Court's earlier decision in
EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226 (1983). And
Wyoming addressed the ADEA in the context of the
Tenth Amendment and Congress's power to regulate
interstate commerce. It never so much as mentioned a
state's sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment. By contrast, Kimel- which briefly
discusses Wyoming in passing-explicitly invalidated
“[t]he ADEA's purported abrogation of the
States' sovereign immunity, ” Kimel, 528
U.S. at 91. And finally, even if the Court agreed with
Plaintiffs' reading of Guido (which it does
not), it could not so easily sidestep this Circuit's
controlling precedent. “[D]istrict judges, like panels
of [the D.C. Circuit], are obligated to follow controlling
circuit precedent until either [the Circuit], sitting en
banc, or the Supreme Court, overrule it.” United
States v. Torres, 115 F.3d 1033, 1036 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
And an intervening Supreme Court decision “effectively
overrules” controlling precedent only if it
“eviscerates” the prior precedent such that the
two cases are “incompatible.” Perry v. Merit
Sys. Prot. Bd., 829 F.3d 760, 764 (D.C. Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted), vacated on other grounds sub nom.
Perry v. Ross, 697 Fed.Appx. 18 (D.C. Cir. 2017).
Whatever may be said of Guido, it does not
Plaintiffs argue that WMATA waived its Eleventh Amendment
immunity when it agreed to comply with the ADEA in a funding
agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). ECF
No. 7 at 13-14. Of course, Congress can condition receipt of
federal funds on a state's waiver of immunity if Congress
“manifests ‘a clear intent'” to do so.
Barbour v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 374
F.3d 1161, 1163 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). However,
Plaintiffs do not suggest that Congress imposed the
relevant condition here. Rather, they argue that the FTA, an
administrative agency, did. But they cite no authority for
the notion that Congress can delegate its power to condition
funds on a state's waiver of immunity to an
administrative agency. In other words, they have “not shown
that Congress, by a silent, implicit delegation of authority,
can open the door for expansions of federal power that it
otherwise could not have accomplished without satisfying a
stringent clear-statement rule.” See Slack v.
Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 325 F.Supp.3d 146,
154 (D.D.C. 2018). Nor have they explained why merely
agreeing to comply with the ADEA necessarily involves
consenting to suits brought by private third parties. See
Id. at 154-55. For these reasons, the Court declines to
find that WMATA waived its sovereign immunity through the
terms of its agreement with the FTA.
Plaintiffs argue that WMATA waived immunity by including age
discrimination protections in its own policies. ECF No. 7 at
14-16. In the policy Plaintiffs reference, WMATA
commits “to complying with all applicable federal laws
that prohibit workplace discrimination and retaliation,
” on the basis of a variety of characteristics,
including age. Id. at 14-15 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). The policy also states that it
“is not intended to prohibit Employees . . . from
filing complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission.” Id. at 15 (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). “Plaintiff[s'] argument,
however, fails to grasp the distinction between WMATA's
obligation to comply with federal laws . . . and its immunity
from private suit in the absence of a sufficient waiver or
abrogation of that immunity.” Buck v. Washington
Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. CV 17-632 (RDM), 2019 WL
6617853, at *10 (D.D.C. Dec. 5, 2019). WMATA's statement
in a policy that it will comply with federal laws that apply
to it does not constitutes the “clear
declaration” necessary to waive immunity. See
Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 284 (2011) (quoting
Coll. Sav. Bank v. Fla. Prepaid Postsecondary Educ.
Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 682 (1999)).
WMATA is immune from Plaintiffs' ADEA claims, the Court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Count II of the
Amended Complaint and must dismiss it. See Burkhart v.
Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 112 F.3d 1207,
1216 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (noting that sovereign immunity is
Conclusion and Order
the above reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count II and Strike
Plaintiffs' Class Allegations, ECF No. 6, is
GRANTED. It is FURTHER
ORDERED that Plaintiffs' class
allegations are STRICKEN; and Count II of
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, ECF No. 5, is
DISMISSED without prejudice.