Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

HOFFMAN v. R.I. ENTERPRISES

June 9, 1999

JESSICA HOFFMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.I. ENTERPRISES, INC. D/B/A RAMADA INN D/B/A CRISTALLO STEAK HOUSE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vanaskie, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

On November 1, 1996, plaintiff Jessica Hoffman (Hoffman) filed this Title VII action against defendant R.I. Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Ramada Inn d/b/a Cristallo Steak House (Ramada), contending, inter alia, that she had been subject to a sexually hostile work environment during her employment as a waitress for Ramada. (Dkt. Entry 1.) Hoffman's complaint sought class certification to allow her to proceed as a class representative on behalf of other women employed by Ramada who had allegedly been subject to the same hostile environment. On several occasions, Hoffman has also filed motions to amend her complaint, seeking, inter alia, to join Connie Bailey as a plaintiff in this action. (Dkt. Entries 11, 37, 60.)*fn1 After conducting discovery on the class certification question, an oral argument was conducted on February 1, 1999. After considering the evidence presented by Hoffman as well as the legal arguments of the parties, I denied Hoffman's request for class certification, finding that Hoffman's EEOC charge had failed to provide adequate notice to Ramada of potential class claims. (Oral Arg. Tr. (Dkt. Entry 107) at 49-55.)*fn2 Hoffman moved for reconsideration of this determination. (Dkt. Entry 88.)*fn3 Hoffman also filed a notice of appeal to the Third Circuit, and the Third Circuit stayed that appeal pending resolution of her motion for reconsideration. (Dkt. Entries 90 & 96.)

II. DISCUSSION

The standard for determining whether to grant a motion for reconsideration is a stringent one. "The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1171, 106 S.Ct. 2895, 90 L.Ed.2d 982 (1986); see also Dodge v. Susquehanna Univ., 796 F. Supp. 829, 830 (M.D.Pa. 1992) (noting three possible grounds upon which a motion for reconsideration might be granted: "(1) intervening change in controlling law, (2) availability of new evidence not previously available, or (3) need to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice"). Further, this Court has cautioned litigants that a mere disagreement with the court does not translate into a clear error of law. Dodge, 796 F. Supp. at 830. A motion for reconsideration is not a tool to relitigate and reargue issues which have already been considered and disposed of by the court. Id. Instead, a motion for reconsideration is appropriate where the court has patently misunderstood a party or where there has been a significant change in the law or facts since the court originally ruled on the issue. Above the Belt. Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D.Va. 1983).

In my oral ruling on February 1, 1999, I relied upon Third Circuit cases which have held that a plaintiff may not assert class claims of discrimination unless the plaintiff has placed the defendant on notice of class-based discrimination in his or her EEOC charge. See Lusardi v. Lechner, 855 F.2d 1062, 1077 (3d Cir. 1988); Whalen v. W.R. Grace & Co., 56 F.3d 504, 506 (3d Cir. 1995); Lockhart v. Westinghouse Credit Corp., 879 F.2d 43, 52 (3d Cir. 1989). In particular, I considered Hoffman's EEOC charge in relation to the facts presented in Lusardi, Lockhart and Kresefky v. Panasonic Communications & Sys. Co., 169 F.R.D. 54, 59 (D.N.J. 1996). After this review, I determined that Hoffman's EEOC charge provided Ramada with notice of Hoffman's individual claims of discriminatory treatment, not that she intended to file a class claim for such discriminatory treatment.

In Lusardi, the plaintiffs, four former Xerox employees, filed a claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. In particular, one of the plaintiff's EEOC charges provided:

    Xerox has engaged and is continuing to engage in
  employment practices related to hiring, training,
  promotion, and termination of past, present and
  future employees which discriminates against persons
  such as myself over forty as a class particularly
  with respect to the implementation of a reduction in
  salaried work force.

Lusardi, 855 F.2d at 1078 (emphasis added). Based upon this EEOC charge, the plaintiffs sought to maintain a class action. Id. The Third Circuit held that class members who have not exhausted administrative remedies may rely upon a representative's timely charge if that charge provided notice of class discrimination. Id. at 1077. The court noted that none of the four EEOC charges were expressly filed "on behalf of those similarly situated." Id. at 1078.*fn4 The precise issue addressed by the court was whether a class action could be brought where the EEOC charge failed to assert explicitly a class claim. The court recognized that this question was "important not only to the administration of the ADEA, but also to Title VII." Id. After reviewing the EEOC charge, with its specific allegation of class discrimination, the court determined that the plaintiffs could maintain a class action.

In Lockhart, the court reaffirmed its holding in Lusardi that "plaintiffs who had not filed charges with the EEOC could opt into an ADEA class action suit only if the original complainant's charge gave the employer notice of class-based discrimination." Lockhart, 879 F.2d at 52-53 (emphasis added); see also Whalen, 56 F.3d at 506 ("In Lusardi, we held that an individual EEOC filing is not a prerequisite to opting into a § 16(b) action where the representative plaintiff has filed a timely charge with the EEOC that gives the employer notice that class-wide discrimination is alleged."). Because the proposed class representative's EEOC charge had contained only references to individual acts of age discrimination, without any reference to class-based age discrimination, the court found that the defendant had not been provided with notice of the alleged class-based discrimination before the EEOC. Id. at 53. Therefore, the class claim was not allowed.

In my February 1, 1999 oral ruling, I considered both Lusardi and Lockhart:

    The Court of Appeals [in Lusardi], with sound
  reason, found that that charge clearly notified Xerox
  that it allegedly discriminated against persons over
  40-years-old, as a class, and accordingly found that
  the charge provided sufficient notice to the parties
  to encourage meaningful conciliation, the purpose of
  requiring it.
    And that, to me, is the touchstone of all of these
  cases that talk about whether the allegation of the
  administrative complaint is sufficient to allow a
  Class Action to be based upon that administrative
  complaint [—] [t]hat the allegation would be such as
  to provide meaningful notice that there would be
  conciliation on a class basis, as opposed to
  conciliation on an individual Plaintiff by Plaintiff
  basis.
    I think my reading of that is confirmed by the
  Third Circuit's decision in the Lockhart case. In
  the Lockhart case, the EEOC charge stated that
  Westinghouse had terminated the Plaintiff from
  employment, on the basis of his age, and the Court
  said that's not enough to provide the requisite
  notice to the Defendant of a class-based claim ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.