Lee Williams v. Tech Mahindra Americas Inc, No. 21-1365 (3d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Appellant, a fired employee, sued his former employer, alleging a pattern or practice of race discrimination against non-South Asians in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The employee had previously attempted to join another class action against the company, but after that case was stayed, he filed this suit – years after his termination. The employer moved to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) as untimely. In response, the employee conceded that the relevant statutes of limitations had expired, and instead, he resorted to two forms of tolling: wrong-forum and American Pipe. The district court concluded that American Pipe tolling did not allow the employee to commence a successive class action, and the employee does not contest that ruling. But the district court dismissed the complaint without considering the applicability of wrong-forum tolling.
The Third Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded the case for the district court to consider whether wrong-forum tolling applies and/or whether Appellant has plausibly pleaded a prima facie pattern-or-practice claim. The court explained a class plaintiff’s burden in making out a prima facie case of discrimination is different from that of an individual plaintiff “in that the former need not initially show discrimination against any particular present or prospective employee,” including himself. As a result, Appellant was not required to plead but for causation on an individual basis to avoid dismissal, given the availability of the pattern-or-practice method of proof at later stages of the case.