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Carol Bell, et al., On Behalf of Themselves and Those Similarly Situated v. Lockheed Martin Corporation

April 18, 2011

CAROL BELL, ET AL., ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.
GWENDOLYN GOFFNEY, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

(Doc. Nos. 273, 304)

(Doc. No. 4)

These are employment discrimination cases. The core of both matters is a Title VII class action against Defendant Lockheed Martin Corporation ("Lockheed") for gender discrimination. All Plaintiffs allege that Lockheed's company-wide policies and practices have a negative disparate impact on female employees' compensation and advancement. This dispute began when Plaintiff Carol Bell filed her Complaint against Lockheed in 2008 (the "Bell Litigation"). The Court subsequently permitted Ms. Bell to join two out-of-state Lockheed employees as named plaintiffs. Although neither of the new Plaintiffs satisfied Title VII's venue provision, Lockheed did not raise any objections regarding venue. In 2010, Ms. Goffney, an out-of-state employee, filed a Complaint asserting, among other claims, the identical Title VII class action claim alleged in the Bell Litigation (the "Goffney Matter"). Currently before the Court is Ms. Bell's motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint joining Ms. Goffney and two other employees as named plaintiffs in the Bell Litigation. (Civ. No. 08-6292, Doc. No. 304). Ms. Bell also moves, in the alterative, to consolidate the Goffney Matter with the Bell Litigation. (Civ. No. 08-6292, Doc. No. 273). Lockheed's principal objection to both motions is that Ms. Goffney and one of the new plaintiffs seeking joinder are out-of-state employees who do not satisfy Title VII's venue provision. Also before the Court is Lockheed's motion to dismiss Ms. Goffney's Complaint for improper venue. (Civ. No. 10-4297, Doc. No. 4). Because Lockheed waived the right to object to joinder of out-of-state employees based on improper venue, the Court grants Ms. Bell's motion for leave to file the proposed Third Amended Complaint. Because Ms. Goffney has represented to the Court that she will dismiss her Complaint against Lockheed if she is joined as a named plaintiff in the Bell Litigation, the Court stays decision regarding Ms. Bell's motion to consolidate and Lockheed's motion to dismiss for ten days so that Ms. Goffney may dismiss her Complaint.

I.BACKGROUND

Ms. Bell works for Lockheed at its Mt. Laurel, New Jersey facility. She has been employed by Lockheed at various times from 1978 until the present, for a total of approximately twenty-one years. Ms. Bell filed her Complaint against Lockheed in December 2008, asserting individual and class claims for discrimination under Title VII and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD") based on a disparate impact theory. Ms. Bell claims that Lockheed's company-wide policies and practices have a disparate impact on female employees' compensation and advancement. Ms. Bell also asserts individual claims for retaliation under Title VII and the NJLAD. Ms. Bell's Complaint asserts that venue in this Court is proper under Title VII's venue provision, which provides that venue is proper in any district where: (1) the alleged discrimination occurred; (2) the employment records relevant to such practice are maintained and administered; or (3) the plaintiff would have worked but for the alleged discrimination. (Am. Compl. ¶ 12 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)).

In October 2009, Ms. Bell moved to file a Second Amended Complaint*fn1 adding Linda Abt and Maxine Walker as named plaintiffs. Ms. Abt was employed by Lockheed at its King of Prussia, Pennsylvania facility. Ms. Walker was employed by Lockheed while residing in Texas. Neither Ms. Abt nor Ms. Walker were employed by Lockheed in New Jersey and neither alleges that Lockheed discriminated against them in New Jersey or that they would have worked for Lockheed in New Jersey but for the alleged discrimination. Lockheed opposed Ms. Bell's motion to join Ms. Walker and Ms. Abt, but did not raise improper venue as an objection to joinder.

Magistrate Judge Donio granted Ms. Bell leave to file her Second Amended Complaint joining Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker. Lockheed appealed Magistrate Judge Donio's ruling to this Court, but did not raise improper venue regarding Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker's claims. This Court affirmed Magistrate Judge Donio's Order. Lockheed then filed an Answer to Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. Lockheed's Answer asserted the following affirmative defense regarding venue: "Venue is improper for all putative defendants except Lockheed Martin." (Answer to Second Am. Compl., at 66) (emphasis added).

Sometime before August 2010, Plaintiffs' counsel requested that Lockheed consent to adding Ms. Goffney as a named Plaintiff in the Bell Litigation. (See Tr. of Aug. 11, 2010 Hr'g, Civ. No. 08-6292, Doc. No. 245, at 31-32). Lockheed did not consent, and, because the EEOC issued Ms. Goffney a right-to-sue letter requiring her to file suit within ninety days, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a separate action against Lockheed on behalf of Ms. Goffney in August 2010. Plaintiffs' counsel maintains that it filed a separate complaint on behalf of Ms. Goffney solely as a protective measure because Lockheed took the position that moving to join a party in an existing action does not toll the ninety-day period for filing a claim in Court. (Id.).

Ms. Goffney's Complaint asserts that Lockheed violated Title VII because its company-wide policies and practices have a disparate impact on female employees' compensation and advancement. Ms. Goffney's Complaint includes a class claim under Title VII that is identical to the class claim in the Bell Litigation, as well as an individual retaliation claim under Title VII. At a hearing before Magistrate Judge Donio regarding a discovery dispute, Lockheed's counsel characterized the relationship between the Bell Litigation and the Goffney Matter as follows:

[T]here is now a Complaint that has been filed on behalf of Gwendolyn Goffney in New Jersey within the last week or two that plaintiffs have acknowledged that they are planning to move to consolidate with the current lawsuit. So these charging parties, all of them are alleging sex discrimination, have virtually the exact same allegations in their EEOC charges as Plaintiff Carol Bell and the other two named plaintiffs had in their EEOC charges, are clearly part and parcel of the same group . . . . (Id. at 30).

In September 2010, Lockheed moved to dismiss Ms. Goffney's Complaint for improper venue. Lockheed argues that, pursuant to Title VII's specific venue provision, venue is not proper in this Court because Ms. Goffney resides in Texas, Lockheed's alleged discrimination did not occur in New Jersey, and Ms. Goffney does not allege that she would have worked for Lockheed in New Jersey but for the alleged discrimination.

In October 2010, Plaintiffs moved to consolidate the Goffney Matter with the Bell Litigation for all purposes. Plaintiffs argue that consolidation is appropriate pursuant to Rule 42(a) because the actions involve common issues of law and fact. In December 2010, Plaintiffs moved for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint adding Ms. Goffney, Dianne Sosa, and Andrea de la Torre as named plaintiffs. Ms. Sosa resides in Annapolis, Maryland and is a current Lockheed employee. She asserts the same gender discrimination disparate-impact claim under Title VII and a retaliation claim under Title VII. Ms. de la Torre resides in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and is a current Lockheed employee. She asserts gender discrimination disparate-impact ...


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