Judge Won't Certify Discrimination Class Action Suit

October 30, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A group of black hospital workers suing a Philadelphia company for racial discrimination lost its bid to get the lawsuit certified as a class action.

US District Judge J. Curtis Joyner ruled that while the 10 named plaintiffs share legal issues with a potential class of up to 200 other black workers at Aramark Corp., those issues aren’t the key ones in the case, according to a Legal Intelligencer report.

“It is clear from the complaint that while all of the plaintiffs aver that they were ‘subjected to frequent harassment and unjustified disciplinary sanctions by Caucasian supervisors not imposed on similarly situated Caucasian employees,’ the circumstances under which those acts of discrimination were committed and the resultant injuries are unique to each individual plaintiff,” Joyner wrote. “The plaintiffs’ individual claims for damages would therefore require individualized evaluations and findings of the facts and defenses.”

Joyner also found that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that common questions “predominate over any questions affecting only individual members” and that class resolution is “superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy,” the Intelligencer said.

The Aramark plaintiffs failed the test, Joyner said, because their harassment claims and the damages they seek would require “individualized evaluations.”

Plaintiffs: Unfair Discipline

The suit was filed in August 2001 on behalf of 10 service workers employed by Aramark at the Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, according to the Intelligencer story. Philadelphia-based Aramark is the nation’s largest provider of outsourcing services

The suit alleges that the Aramark service workers at Presbyterian – whose jobs include transporting patients, distributing linen and cleaning rooms and floors – are almost all black and that their white managers harass them through “an oppressive pattern of unfair and unjustified discipline.”

Four of the named plaintiffs claim they were fired on the basis of fabricated disciplinary charges. The real reason for the firings, the suit says, is that all four had voiced objections to the racially discriminatory discipline.

The suit alleges that Aramark employees in other departments at the hospital, who are mostly white, are not subjected to the same discipline.