University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Little v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. EE-DC-0075
Docket / Court No. 1:14-cv-01289 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On July 30, 2014, nine African American employees with criminal records filed this lawsuit (on behalf of a putative class of similar employees) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and its ... read more >
On July 30, 2014, nine African American employees with criminal records filed this lawsuit (on behalf of a putative class of similar employees) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and its contractors. The plaintiffs, represented by the NAACP, the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, and private counsel, sought a declaratory judgment that the practices of the WMATA and its contractors were unlawful and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Actof 1964, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. They also requested a permanent injunction preventing the Defendants from engaging in the current employment practices regarding criminal history, an order that the Defendants carry out employment polices that would comply with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress.

Specifically, the plaintiffs complained about WMATA's employment policies of denying employment based on past criminal records. They alleged that, because African Americans were more likely than the general population to have a criminal background, the policy discriminated against them. They argued that members of the proposed class had been unable to obtain employment they were qualified for, were terminated from employment even though they demonstrated their competence, were unable to apply for promotions for fear of being terminated, and were unable to take leave due to the fear that they would not be able to return to work.

On January 26, 2015, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer entered an order staying the Plaintiffs' claims. The stay was entered based on a public hearing from January 23, during which Plaintiffs decided to limit the applicable case to applicants and contractor employees of the WMATA, not WMATA employees themselves. Judge Collyer stated that she could not grant a motion to dismiss some of the named Defendants because, as WMATA contractors, they were responsible for referring applicants to WMATA for hire. Defense made clear that it was the WMATA’s policy that was implemented by WMATA; the independent contractors hired by the WMATA were not prohibited from employing the applicants for other purposes. Despite the fact that named independent contractors influence was ultimately small, this referral process affected who got hired and who did not. Judge Collyer stated that without these Defendants, she would not have the jurisdiction to enter an order for a full remedy when the time came. Counsel for Plainiffs stated for the record that they were still in discovery process.

On February 10 of that year, Judge Collyer ordered that Civil Case Number 14-1289 to be consolidated with Civil Case Number 15-98. These cases were merged because the factual issues and legal claims raised in No. 15-98 were related to those in No. 14-289. Specifically, the factual and legal issues raised by Plaintiff Pendergrass in 15-98 were related to Little v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Civil Case No. 14-1289. All pleadings were ordered to be filed in No. 14-1289.

On October 31, 2016 the court denied Plaintiffs’ Motion to Modify the Protective Order, entered on July 13, 2015. The Protective Order was granted so parties could disclose information deemed “Confidential” by the WMATA to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This information included “confidential, properitary, and highly sensitive information” related to the identities of Plaintiffs. See Protective Order. The Court found that the modification of the Protective Order was not appropriate because its nature weighed against modification, arguing that the modification would essentially negate the original order, to which both parties stipulated to the existence of good cause. The Court also found that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate good cause as to why the Protective Order should be modified, since WMATA responded to Plaintiffs were merely speculating, and thus, the EEOC was unlikely to reopen its investigation into WMATA. Lastly, the Court concluded that WMATA produced data that for this suit that was different from the data produced during its investigation because persons under different directions produced the data for limited periods, whereas the Plaintiffs’ discovery request, made under the Protective Order, covered a longer period of time. These differences, the Court argued, resulted from different circumstances and not ill intent.

On March 31 2017, District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer issued an order granting approval of a class settlement. The court certified three distinct classes:

Appendix A Class: All African-American persons who, since February 23, 2012, have been denied employment with WMATA, or terminated or otherwise permanently separated from their positions, suspended with or without pay, and/or denied employment with any third-party contractor or subcontractor as a result of Appendix A.

Appendix C Class: All African-American persons who, since February 23, 2012, have been denied employment with WMATA, or terminated or otherwise permanently separated from their positions, suspended with or without pay, and/or denied employment with any third-party contractor or subcontractor as a result of Appendix C.

Appendix F Class/MetroAccess Class: All African-American persons who, since February 23, 2012, have been denied employment with WMATA, or terminated or otherwise permanently separated from their positions, suspended with or without pay, and/or denied employment with any third-party contractor or subcontractor as a result of Appendix F.

On November 22, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion for settlement approval. On December 7, 2017, Judge Collyer granted preliminary approval of the settlement agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, a Class Claims Fund would be established. The total amount available for distribution in the Class Claims Fund would be the balance of $6.5 million that remained after deduction for attorneys’ fees and expenses approved by the Court. The programmatic relief granted by the settlement would require WMATA to adopt a new background screening policy, which would include an individualized assessment procedure.

The parties filed a Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of Proposed Class Action Settlement on November 22, 2017. On December 7, 2017, the Court scheduled a Settlement Fairness Hearing for April 18, 2018, to determine whether the proposed Settlement was fair, reasonable, and adequate and determine whether the Order and Final Judgment as provided under the Settlement Agreement should be entered. Pending the Hearing, all deadlines were stayed.

On April 27, 2018, the Court granted the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Final Approval of the Proposed Class Action Settlement and the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Approval of Service Payments. The Court awarded $1,625,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by representatives of the Settlement Class. Class Claims Fund were distributed in the following manners: Long Form Claimants could receive up to $40,000 and short form claimants could receive a flat payment of $2,000. All other known and unknown claims, suits, demands and causes of action by class representatives were dismissed with prejudice. Class representatives received $7,500 as compensation.

The case is now closed.

Steve Vnuk - 10/09/2014
Lisa Limb - 03/23/2018
- 09/16/2018


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Hire
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Transportation
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Hiring
Promotion
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State Anti-Discrimination Law
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authoirty
Plaintiff Description Employees or prospective employees of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority who denied employment, denied a promotion, had their employment terminated, or were unable to take leave due to past criminal history.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2018
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:14-cv-01289 (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/01/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
EE-DC-0075-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 50] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/26/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 53] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/10/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 76] (100 F.Supp.3d 1) (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/23/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Class Action Complaint [ECF# 84]
EE-DC-0075-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/09/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 126] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 184] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/31/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Joint Motion for Preliminary Approval of the Proposed Class Action Settlement, Approval of the Motion for Certification of a Settlement Class, Approval of the Notice Plan, and Scheduling of a Hearing [ECF# 230] (D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/07/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Collyer, Rosemary M. (FISC, D.D.C.)
EE-DC-0075-0002 | EE-DC-0075-0003 | EE-DC-0075-0004 | EE-DC-0075-0005 | EE-DC-0075-0006 | EE-DC-0075-0008 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Alarcon Pelham, Narda Lugo (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Clemons, Katherine E. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Corkery, Dennis A. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Fearnside, Matthew R. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Freedman, John A. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Friedman, Daniel Mortimer (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Grossi, Peter Thomas Jr. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Handley, Matthew K. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Harris, Michael Duane (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Hinson, Kristian L. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Ifill, Sherrilyn (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0001
Kleinman, Rachel Miriam (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Korgaonkar, Natasha (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Mar, Ria Tabacco (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0001
Marston, Brett E. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
McClure, Brittany Erin (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
McSorley, Thomas Dallas (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Montag, Coty R (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Moore, ReNika C (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Quereshi, Ajmel (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Risher, Conrad Z. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Romer-Friedman, Peter (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Smith, Johnathan James (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Swarns, Christina (New York)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-0007
Weddle, Brandie N. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-0001 | EE-DC-0075-0007 | EE-DC-0075-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Berkowitz, Matthew D. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Black, Richard W. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Calamis, Nat Peter (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Davisson, Tabitha G. (Missouri)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Guss, Michael Kelly (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Hoppmeyer, Melissa E. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Kraft, Kathleen Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Levin, Harvey A. (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Petkovich, Michael N. (Virginia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Poplstein, Charles M. (Missouri)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Simmons, William (Pennsylvania)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Stief, Gerard Joseph (District of Columbia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Vaccaro, Amanda Leigh Scott (Virginia)
EE-DC-0075-9000
Wagner, Robert J. (Missouri)
EE-DC-0075-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -