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MILLER v. HYGRADE FOOD PRODUCTS CORP.

March 24, 2000

JAMES C. MILLER, RALPH BROWN, VINCENT GRAY, CHARLES KNIGHT, MICHAEL JONES, HAROLD G. WILLIAMS, JERRY HEMINGWAY, BARRY C. JAMES AND DWAYNE JACKSON, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
HYGRADE FOOD PRODUCTS CORPORATION AND SARA LEE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lowell A. Reed, Jr., Senior District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the motion of the defendant Hygrade Food Products ("Hygrade") to dismiss the hiring, promotion and termination claims of plaintiffs James C. Miller, Ralph Brown, Vincent Gray, Charles Knight, Michael Jones, Harold G. Williams, Jerry Hemingway, Barry C. James and Dwayne Jackson (Document No. 24) for lack of standing, the motion of Hygrade for a protective Order limiting the scope of plaintiffs written discovery related to plaintiffs' hiring, promotion and termination claims (Document No. 38), and the motion of Hygrade for a protective Order limiting the temporal scope of plaintiffs written discovery (Document No. 37), as well as the responses and replies thereto. Also before the Court is the motion of plaintiffs to join additional parties (Document No. 35) and the response thereto. For the reasons set forth below, the motion of Hygrade to dismiss the hiring, promotion and termination claims for lack of standing will be denied. Accordingly, the motion for a protective Order limiting the scope of the plaintiffs' written discovery will also be denied. The motion for a protective Order limiting the temporal scope of the plaintiffs' written discovery will be granted. Finally, the motion to join additional parties will be denied.

I. Background

Hygrade employs approximately 300 employees at its Philadelphia facility, approximately 58% of whom are minorities. Hygrade produces and packages hot dogs, bacon and ham at its Philadelphia facility. Nine current employees at Hygrade's Philadelphia facility initiated this lawsuit, seeking to represent a broad-based class of all African-Americans employed at or who have sought employment at the Philadelphia facility during the last decade. Plaintiffs allege that Hygrade has engaged in a pattern and practice of race discrimination and racial harassment. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that Hygrade has discriminated against African-Americans with regard to hiring, promotion, compensation, work assignments, training and disciplinary practices, including discharge. The complaint contains factual allegations describing discrimination against African-Americans in different job categories and in different forms. Many of the factual allegations describe situations in which African-American employees were treated differently than similarly situated white employees.

In a charge filed with the EEOC by named plaintiff Miller (and which is representative of the type of charge filed by other named plaintiffs), Miller alleges that Hygrade has "engaged, and continue to engage, in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination and racial harassment against African-American employees with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment." (Plaintiffs Answer to Defendant Hygrade's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Hiring, Promotion and Termination Claims and Plaintiffs Cross-Motion to Join Additional Parties, ("Plt.Mem."), Exh. G, ¶ 2). Miller also alleges that "the pattern and practice of discrimination and racial harassment has created, and continues to create, a hostile and abusive work environment." (Id.). Miller further alleges that the defendants "have discriminated against African-American employees because of their race with regard to supervisory or managerial positions, work assignments and discipline." (Id., at ¶ 3). Finally, Miller asserts that he has filed the charge as a representative of and on behalf of all African-American employees at the Philadelphia plant. (Id. at ¶ 1).

II. Standard

Article III of the United States Constitution confines the jurisdiction of federal courts to "Cases" and "Controversies." Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). To present a justiciable "case" or "controversy" over which the federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction, a plaintiff must have standing. Id. at 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (standing is an "indispensable part of the plaintiffs case" and "must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof"). Standing is the determination of whether a specific person is the proper party to bring a particular matter to a federal court for adjudication. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). Standing involves a blend of constitutional requirements and prudential considerations. Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church & State, 454 U.S. 464, 471, 102 S.Ct. 752, 70 L.Ed.2d 700 (1982). The "irreducible constitutional minimum" of standing contains three elements:

First, the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact" — an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) "actual or imminent, not `conjectural' or `hypothetical.'" Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of — the injury has to be "fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result [of the independent action of some third party not before the court." Third, it must be "likely," as opposed to merely "speculative," that the injury will be "redressed by a favorable decision."

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130 (internal citations omitted, brackets and omissions in original).*fn1 The party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden of establishing these elements. Id. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130.

A challenge to the standing of a party raises the issue of justiciability and implicates the subject matter jurisdiction of a federal district court. Therefore, a motion to dismiss for want of standing is properly brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1). Tri-County Concerned Citizens Assoc. v. Carr, 1998 WL 966019, at *3 (E.D.Pa. Nov.20, 1998); see also ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, FEDERAL JURISDICTION §§ 2.1, 2.3 (1994); 13A CHARLES A. WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER & EDWARD H. COOPER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE, CIVIL 2D, § 3531.15, at 95 n. 9 (2d ed. 1984). Generally, when ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(1), "a district court is not limited to the face of the pleadings. Rather, as long as the parties are given an opportunity to contest the existence of federal jurisdiction, the court `may inquire, by affidavit or otherwise, into the facts as they exist.'" Armstrong World Indus. v. Adams, 961 F.2d 405, 410 n. 10 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n. 4, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 91 L.Ed. 1209 (1947) (citations omitted)). Nevertheless, for purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss for want of standing, as here, the trial court "must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party." Warth, 422 U.S. at 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197.*fn2

Finally, the standard for determining standing is not static. At the pleading stage, as here, "general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we `presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.'" Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992) (quoting Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 889, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990)); Anjelino v. New York Times Co., 200 F.3d 73, 90 (3d Cir. 1999) (for purposes of standing, "nothing beyond a colorable allegation of injury is required of the Title VII plaintiff" at the pleading stage). In contrast, at summary judgment, "the plaintiff can no longer rest on such `mere allegations,' but must `set forth' by affidavit or other evidence `specific facts,' Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 56(e), which for purposes of the summary judgment motion will be taken to be true." Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130.

III. Discussion

Hygrade argues that the named plaintiffs, as current employees who have not been denied a promotion, have not alleged an "injury in fact" as a result of its hiring, termination or promotion practices and, therefore, these claims should be dismissed. In conjunction with its motion to dismiss, Hygrade also moves for a protective order from the plaintiffs discovery requests with respect to their hiring, termination and promotion practices. Plaintiffs counter by arguing that they have standing to bring an "across-the-board" action and that Hygrade has conflated the analysis of standing with the requirements of typicality and commonality under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Nonetheless, in an abundance of caution, plaintiffs also move to join additional parties.

A. Standing

1. Across-the-board Class Actions

The expansive "across-the-board" class action attack on employment discrimination was first articulated by Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit more than two decades ago. Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 417 F.2d 1122, 1124 (5th Cir. 1969); see also Wagner v. Taylor, 836 F.2d 578, 588-90 (D.C.Cir. 1987) (collecting cases and discussing "across-the-board" approach to Title VII class certification); Weizel v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 508 F.2d 239, 247 (3d Cir.), cert. denied 421 U.S. 1011, 95 S.Ct. 2415, 44 L.Ed.2d 679 (1975). This approach was subsequently recognized by ...


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