Johnson v. Dept of Administrative Svcs
ORDER granting 11 Motion to Strike. See attached Memorandum of Decision. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 2/9/12. (Hildebrand, J.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
REBECCA L. JOHNSON
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE
CIVIL ACTION NO.
February 9, 2012
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO STRIKE
On July 5, 2011, Plaintiff Rebecca Johnson filed this single-count complaint
against the State of Connecticut Department of Administrative Services [“DAS”]
alleging failure to hire on the basis of racial discrimination in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Johnson originally filed her claim against DAS
along with a claim by Sowatei Lomotey against the Connecticut Department of
Transportation, and a claim by Stella Agu against the Connecticut Department of
Mental Health and Addiction Services. On June 20, 2011 the Court ordered
Johnson to file an amended complaint by July 5, 2011 severing her claims from
those of Lomotey and Agu.
Johnson’s complaint [Dkt. #1], purports to bring a class action described
“on her own behalf, and on behalf of all other black,
African Americans similarly situated (seeking access
and/or promotion to supervisory or management
opportunities) and who are subjected to and affected by
the racially discriminatory and unlawful employment
practices committed by the Defendant employer.
Furthermore, Plaintiff brings this action on her own
behalf and on behalf all other black, African Americans
who will in the future apply to the Defendant employer
for employment or promotion into supervisory or
management vacancies.” [Dkt. #1, Compl., ¶3].
Defendant, DAS has filed a motion to strike the class action allegations
from Johnson’s complaint. [Dkt. #11]. On November 23, 2011, the Court ordered
Plaintiff to file a Memorandum of Law stating:
“the legal basis upon which she is entitled to maintain
and obtain discovery to establish the efficacy of a class
action in light of the lack of particularized facts in her
Complaint. See Oppenheimer v. F.J. Young & Co., Inc., 3
F.R.D. 220 (S.D.N.Y. 1943) (" 'A suit is not truly a
'representative suit' merely because the plaintiff, as
here, so designates it; whether it is depends on the
attending facts.' ") (citation omitted); see also D&A
Motors, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 19 F.R.D. 365
(S.D.N.Y. 1956)(finding that Plaintiffs failed to adequately
define the class, noting that "the spurious class action
is essentially a device for permissive joinder [...] its
appropriateness in a given case must be tested in terms
of the advisability of joining all claims within the
described category," and "[f]or this reason, a clear
definition of the class is essential."). Defendant may file
a response by 12/7/11. Following the submission of both
memoranda, the Court will consider the need for a
Status Conference to address the issue of a class
action.” [Dkt. #21].
Having reviewed the memoranda of both Johnson and DAS regarding the
efficacy of a class action, the Court holds that Johnson has failed to comply with
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23. Plaintiff provided no indication whatsoever in her complaint
regarding the numerosity, commonality, typicality. Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).
Further, Plaintiff’s cursory description of the class action is patently
insufficient in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions in General Telephone Co. of
Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147 (1982), and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564
U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 2550 (2011).
In Falcon the Supreme Court addressed the evidentiary showing necessary
in a pattern-or-practice disparate impact case to support a finding of commonality
or typicality, holding that:
Conceptually, there is a wide gap between (a) an
individual's claim that he has been denied a promotion
on discriminatory grounds, and his otherwise
unsupported allegation that the company has a policy of
discrimination, and (b) the existence of a class of
persons who have suffered the same injury as that
individual, such that the individual's claim and the class
claims will share common questions of law or fact that
the individual's claim will be typical of the class claims.
For [a plaintiff] to bridge that gap, he must prove much
more than the validity of his own claim. 457 U.S. at 15758.
Although the Falcon Court recognized that “[s]ignificant proof that an
employer operated under a general policy of discrimination conceivably could
justify a class of both applicants and employees if the discrimination manifested
itself in hiring and promotion practices in the same general fashion, such as
through entirely subjective decisionmaking processes,” here, Johnson’s
complaint includes no more than an unsupported allegation” that DAS has a
policy of discrimination.” Id. at 159 n.15. Following Falcon, courts within the
Second Circuit have required “that plaintiffs produce some quantum of evidence
to satisfy the commonality and typicality requirements, usually in the form of
affidavits, statistical evidence, or both, tending to show the existence of a class
of persons affected by a company-wide policy or practice of discrimination.”
Attenborough v. Const. and General Bldg. Laborers’ Local 79, 238 F.R.D. 82, 95
(S.D.N.Y. 2006) (citations omitted).
In the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wal-Mart, the Court emphasized
that “[c]ommonality requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the class members
have suffered the same injury . . . not merely that they have all suffered a violation
of the same provision of law.” 131 S.Ct. at 2551. The Supreme Court further
elaborated, stating that:
[E]ven a disparate impact injury gives no cause to
believe that all heir claims can productively be litigated
at once. Their claims must depend upon a common
contention—for example, the assertion of discriminatory
bias on the part of the same supervisor. That common
contention, moreover, must be of such a nature that it is
capable of classwide resolution—which means that
determination of its truth or falsity will resolve an issue
that is central to the validity of each one of the claims in
one stroke. Id.
Relying on this precedent, the Court finds that Johnson’s sparse and
conclusory allegations of a class fall far short of the standard necessary to
pursue a class action. Johnson’s single sentence allegation seeks to include
claims of both failure to hire and failure to promote, which are factually and
legally distinct analyses, and refers to “racially discriminatory and unlawful
practices,” providing no detail whatsoever as to the nature, type or form of these
practices, or the individuals by whom these practices are implemented.
Accordingly, the Court grants Defendant DAS’s motion to strike the class action
allegations from Johnson’s complaint. Johnson is ordered to file an amended
complaint setting forth solely individualized factual allegations and legal claims
by March 10, 2012.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: February 9, 2012
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