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Romero v. Allstate Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2017

GENE R. ROMERO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEARNEY, J.

         Pennsylvania employees challenging their employer's alleged age discrimination must first file an administrative claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of notice of the adverse employment action. In certain limited contexts, employees who did not timely file an administrative claim can rely upon a timely administrative claim brought by a representative employee on their behalf. But the representative claim must be timely filed. When, as here, there is no evidence of a timely filed administrative claim, we must enter summary judgment on the age discrimination claim in the former employer's favor as the employees failed to exhaust the administrative process before filing suit.

         I. Undisputed Facts [1]

         Allstate Insurance Company sells insurance and related products and services.[2] Joseph Eckert, Steven Evans, Philip Metcalfe, Craig Millison, Paula Schott, and Stanley Suwala are former Allstate employee insurance agents domiciled in this District.[3]

         On November 10, 1999, Allstate announced the Preparing for the Future Program, which effectively reorganized its sales force.[4] Under the Program, Allstate represented it would transition approximately 6, 500 of its captive sales agents to one independent contractor exclusive agency program.[5] On November 16, 1999, Allstate advised its agents they would be terminated on June 30, 2000 unless they signed a release and agreed to a new contract with Allstate.[6]

         Almost a year after this notice, Mr. Evans, Mr. Suwala, Ms. Schott, and Mr. Millison filed charges of discrimination from October through December 2000 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). They alleged "Allstate's requirement that I release all claims I may have under the" Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA")[7] is unlawful retaliation under the ADEA.[8] In February and March 2001, Mr. Millison, Ms. Schott, Mr. Evans, and Mr. Suwala filed more charges of discrimination alleging Allstate "adopted and implemented" the Program "to get rid of older employee-agents because of their age."[9] Mr. Eckert and Mr. Metcalfe did not file charges of discrimination with the EEOC.[10]

         On August 1, 2001, Mr. Millison and other Allstate agents excluding Mr. Eckert, Mr. Evans, Mr. Metcalfe, Ms. Schott, and Mr. Suwala ("Mr. Millison and others") sued Allstate for, among other claims, intentional age discrimination under the ADEA. Mr. Millison and others sought certification to proceed as a collective action to pursue claims for intentional age discrimination. Mr. Eckert, Mr. Evans, Mr. Metcalfe, Ms. Schott, and Mr. Suwala later joined the lawsuit to pursue their own claims of intentional age discrimination under the ADEA.

         II. Analysis

         Allstate moves for summary judgment on these six Phase III Plaintiffs' ADEA disparate treatment claims, arguing they failed to exhaust administrative remedies by failing to file charges of discrimination with the EEOC.[11] The Phase III Plaintiffs argue they are excused from the administrative exhaustion requirement under a judicially created exception called the single filing rule. They also argue their filed charges are timely under the tolling doctrine. Plaintiffs' arguments lack merit and we must dismiss their ADEA disparate impact claims for failing to timely file in the administrative process.[12]

         A. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and we cannot excuse their failure to exhaust under the single filing rule.

         Under the ADEA, a Pennsylvania citizen must file a charge of discrimination within 300 days of receiving notice of the challenged employment action.[13] "Ordinarily, a complainant who fails to file a timely charge is barred from seeking relief."[14] Our court of appeals recognizes a judge-made exception to this exhaustion requirement called the single filing or "piggybacking" rule.[15] Under this rule, as applied to collective actions under the ADEA, "plaintiffs who had not filed charges with the EEOC could opt into an ADEA class action suit only if the original complainant's EEOC charge gave the employer notice of class-based age discrimination."[16]

         In Whalen, our court of appeals clarified the single filing rule does not excuse plaintiffs joined under the civil permissive joinder rules from satisfying the administrative exhaustion requirement.[17] In Whalen, five plaintiffs-who timely filed charges of discrimination under the ADEA-brought an action in federal court seeking relief for their individual claims.[18] During the litigation, the five plaintiffs moved to amend their complaint and add four new plaintiffs even though these prospective plaintiffs had not timely filed charges with the EEOC.[19] The original plaintiffs argued the single filing rule excused the prospective plaintiffs from filing a timely charge because they could "piggyback" onto the original plaintiffs' timely EEOC charges.[20] The district court allowed amendment, holding "the single filing rule applies to ADEA class and non-class actions alike."[21]

         Our court of appeals reversed, explaining the single filing rule is limited to the context of class and collective actions, and cannot be used to excuse the exhaustion requirement for the "four new party plaintiffs who had failed to pursue administrative remedies."[22] The single filing rule "provides plaintiffs the option of seeking class certification and prospective plaintiffs who failed to seek a timely administrative remedy for their alleged injury the opportunity to opt into the class. When, however, plaintiffs choose to bring suit individually, they must first satisfy the prerequisite of filing a timely EEOC charge."[23] Because the original five plaintiffs did not bring a collective action and the four prospective plaintiffs could not "have filed written consents 'opting into' such an action, " the prospective plaintiffs could not rely on the single filing rule.[24]

         These Phase III Plaintiffs did not timely file charges with the EEOC. On November 16, 1999, Allstate notified Plaintiffs they would be terminated on June 30, 2000. This notice triggered the running of the statute of limitations under controlling law.[25] To timely exhaust administrative remedies, these Plaintiffs had to file their EEOC charges alleging disparate treatment based on age within 300 days of November 16, 1999 - no later than September 11,2000. These Plaintiffs filed charges alleging disparate ...


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