The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge
ORDER OF COURT REJECTING THE SPECIAL MASTER'S REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION (DOC. NO. 125) AND SUSTAINING DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS THERETO (DOC. NO. 129); AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS LIMITING
TEMPORAL SCOPE OF PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS (DOC. NO. 73)
This Court, for the reasons set forth below, finds that any plaintiff in this case (or possible opt-in plaintiff (if this Court would determine in the future that this case may proceed as a collective action) may not state an actionable cause of action that accrued earlier than December 31, 2005.
By way of background, plaintiffs allege that defendant PPG Industries Inc. systematically "discriminate[d] against its older workforce in conducting [r]eductions-in-[f]orce . . . and forced retirements over an extended period of time." First Am. Compl. ¶ 9 (doc. no. 13). They claim this "systemic age discrimination began at or about the time [Raymond] Leboeuf became CEO" which they allege was in or around 1997. Id. ¶ ¶ 23, 66. PPG's employment of the named plaintiffs terminated in January and February 2006. Plaintiffs Rupert, Austin, Hunt and Bittner learned of their employment terminations in late January 2006. Id. ¶ ¶ 93, 115, 156, 169. Plaintiff Campbell learned that his employment termination would occur in late February 2006. Id. ¶ 132, 139.
The ADEA requires an EEOC charge to be filed, in a deferral state like Pennsylvania, within 300 days of when a cause of action accrues. In an ADEA collective action, the claims of any opt-in plaintiffs must accrue during the charge-filing period applicable to the earliest-filed charge properly raising class claims from a representative plaintiff. The first amended complaint alleges that the earliest charge filed by a named plaintiff was filed by Rupert on October 25, 2006. Thus, this action, for the sake of this pending Motion for Summary Judgment, may not include any claim accruing more than 300 days earlier than October 25, 2006 - - in other words, not before December 31, 2005.
II. Special Master's Report and Recommendation
The Special Master recommended that Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Limiting Temporal Scope of Plaintiffs' Claims (doc. no. 73) be denied. While this Court adopted every other Report and Recommendation (doc. nos. 123, 124, and 126) of the Special Master in this case (see doc. no. 133), this Court disagrees with the Special Master's conclusion in the Report and Recommendation (doc. no. 125) relating to the issue of the temporal scope of plaintiffs' claims.
III. Analysis of this Court
This Court agrees with defendant's argument as set forth in its Brief in Support of Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Limiting Temporal Scope of Plaintiffs' Claims (doc. no. 74) that opt-in plaintiffs, who did not file EEOC charges, may only allege claims that accrued within the 300 days preceding the earliest-filed representative charge - - which in this case is Plaintiff Rupert's charge - - and that equitable tolling is not available to resurrect claims that had expired before the earliest representative claim was filed. See Jones v. Firestone Tire and Rubber Co., Inc., 977 F.2d 527, 532 (11th Cir. 1992) (under single-filing rule, filing and non-filing plaintiffs' claims must have arisen from "similar discriminatory treatment in the same time frame"). Because Rupert filed his EEOC charge on October 25, 2006, no plaintiff may opt-in to the instant class action lawsuit if his or her claim accrued before December 31, 2005.
Plaintiffs, on the other hand, argue that any former employee who meets the requirements for equitable tolling set forth in Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc., 500 F.3d 375 (3d Cir. 2007) should be permitted to opt-in regardless of when his or her employment was terminated. However, this Court finds that ...