United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
April 16, 2004.
CURTIS BOYER, DAVID J. JARAMILLO, DARIEN WASHINGTON, SAMUEL LEE WELLS, and CITIRAH WHARTON
JOHNSON MATTHEY, INC. and UNITED STEEL WORKERS OF AMERICA, LOCAL 1165-02
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD B. SURRICK, District Judge
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Plaintiffs Curtis Boyer, David J. Jaramillo, Darien Washington,
Samuel Lee Wells, and Citirah Wharton bring this discrimination action
against Johnson Matthey, Inc. ("JMI") and United Steelworkers of America,
Local 1165-02 ("Local 1165-02"). Presently before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Sever (Doc. No. 7). For the following reasons, we
will deny Defendants' Motion without prejudice.
Plaintiffs are current or former employees of JMI and members of Local
1165-02, a labor organization. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-14.) Each of the
Plaintiffs was employed at JMI's Noble Metals Division in Malvern,
Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 14.) Among other things, Plaintiffs
allege that Defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of
discrimination. (Id. ¶ 15.) Based on these allegations,
Plaintiffs filed the complaint on November 8, 2002, seeking relief under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII"),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (the
"PHRA"), 43 PA. CONS. STAT. § 955(a), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendants move to sever Plaintiffs' claims into separate actions.
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims are misjoined because Plaintiffs
worked for JMI during different periods of time, on different shifts, and
in separate departments. Plaintiffs, however, allege that Defendants
engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and created a hosfile
work environment. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Specifically, Plaintiffs allege
For a number of years prior and continuing to the
present, JMI and Local 1165-02 have tolerated and,
through their officers and managers, created, an
environment, pattern and practice of hostility
towards members of racial minorities characterized
by the frequent use of racial slurs and other
offensive verbal references to race, tampering
with the materials and property associated with
minority employees, discrimination in hirings and
assignments, and the discriminatory management of
the system of bidding on job vacancies.
(Id.) Plaintiffs allege that pursuant to the pattern or
practice of discrimination they each suffered adverse employment actions.
(Id. ¶ 16.) Therefore, Plaintiffs argue, their claims are
II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO SEVER
A. Standard for Motion to Sever
A district court has broad discretion in deciding whether to sever a
party pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21. Fanning v.
Black & Decker, Inc., No. 98-6141, 1999 WL 163628, at *1 (E.D.
Pa. Mar. 18, 1999). Rule 21 provides, in relevant part, that "[p]arties
maybe dropped or added by order of the court on motion of any party or of
its own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are
just." FED. R. CIV. P. 21. Rule 21 is "most commonly invoked to sever
parties improperly joined under Rule 20."*fn1 Norwood Co. v. RLI
Ins. Co., No. 01-6153, 2002 WL 523946, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 4, 2002).
Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs' claims are misjoined. Rule 20(a)
permits plaintiffs to join in one action "if they assert any right to
relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative in respect of or arising
out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or
occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all these
persons will arise in the action." FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a). "Both the same
transaction(s) and the common question elements must be satisfied before
joinder can be permitted." In re Orthopedic Bone Screw Prod. Liab.
Litig., No. MDL 1014, 1995 WL 428683, at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 17,
The purpose of Rule 20(a) is to "promote trial convenience and expedite
the final determination of disputes, thereby preventing multiple law
suits." Miller v. Hygrade Food Prods. Corp., 202 F.R.D. 142, 144
(E.D. Pa. 2001) (citing 7 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER AND MARY
KAY KANE, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 1652 (3d ed. 2001) and
Mosley v. Gen. Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1332 (8th Cir.
1974)). Permissive joinder "falls within the Court's sound discretion and
is to be liberally granted; `[u]nder the rules, the impulse is toward
entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with
fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is
strongly encouraged.'" Miller, 202 F.R.D. at 144 (quoting
United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966)).
In determining whether a particular factual situation constitutes a
single transaction or occurrence, courts "generally apply a case-by-case
approach." Miller, 202 F.R.D. at 144. "`Transaction' is a word
of flexible meaning. It may comprehend a series of many occurrences, depending not so much upon the immediateness of their connection as
upon their logical relationship." Mosley, 497 F.2d at 1333
(quoting Moore v. New York Cotton Exch., 270 U.S. 593, 610
Plaintiffs allege that JMI and Local 1165-02 have "tolerated and,
through their officers and managers, created, an environment, pattern and
practice of hostility towards members of racial minorities. . . ."
(Compl. ¶ 15.) Essentially, Plaintiffs allege that each specific
discriminatory action described in the complaint stemmed from the same
pattern or practice of hostility. Thus, each discriminatory act should be
considered part of the same transaction or occurrence. At this early
stage in the proceedings we will not attempt to determine whether
Defendants have engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination. At
this juncture, it is sufficient that Plaintiffs have alleged that
Defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination. Other
courts have found the common transaction element met when the plaintiffs
alleged that a pattern or practice of discrimination existed. See
Mosley, 497 F.2d at 1333-1334 (finding common transaction element
when the plaintiffs alleged the defendants has a "company-wide policy
purportedly designed to discriminate against blacks in employment");
Miller, 202 F.R.D at 144 (finding common transaction element
when the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants employed a discriminatory
policy); King v. Pepsi Cola Metro. Bottling Co., 86 F.R.D. 4,
5-6 (E.D. Pa. 1979) (finding common transaction element met when the
plaintiffs alleged the defendants had "a general and pervasive corporate
policy of discrimination"). We conclude that at this early stage,
Plaintiffs' allegations are sufficient to meet the common transaction
element required for joinder. The second requirement for joinder is that each of Plaintiffs' claims
involve a common question of law or fact. Plaintiffs only need to share a
single question of law or fact to meet this "very low threshold."
Barnes v. Am. Tobacco. Co., 161 F.3d 127, 140, 141 n.15 (3d Cir.
1998) (quotations omitted). Though Plaintiffs allegedly suffered
different incidents of discrimination, some occurring on different work
shifts, at the hands of different supervisors, and at different times,
the purported existence of a discriminatory pattern or practice is a
common question of fact that Plaintiffs' claims share. See
Miller, 202 F.R.D at 145 (citing Mosley, 497 F.2d at 1334).
At this stage in the proceedings, we conclude that Plaintiffs' have met
the commonality element.
Sufficient facts have been alleged by Plaintiffs regarding each element
required for joinder under Rule 20(a). Accordingly, we will deny
Defendants' motion to sever. We note that severance might be appropriate
after discovery is completed if Plaintiffs' pattern or practice
allegations are not established. Thus, our decision to deny Defendants'
motion to sever is without prejudice. See Madison v. Hennepin
County, No. 02-4756 JRTFLN, 2003 WL 21639176, at *4 (D. Minn. July
1, 2003) (denying motion to sever, but noting that it might be
appropriate to revisit the issue after discovery); see also
Miller, 202 F.R.D. at 145 (finding that "as discovery has not yet
closed and dispositive motions have not yet been filed, it is too soon to
determine whether the claims should be severed for trial. The Court
cannot make such a determination until it is clear exactly what issues,
if any, will go to trial.").
An appropriate Order follows.
AND NOW, this 16th day of April, 2004, upon
consideration of Defendants' Motion to Sever (Doc. No. 7), and all papers
filed in support thereof and opposition thereto, it is ORDERED that the
Motion is DENIED without prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED.