The Fourth Circuit reopened the door for a class action suit to proceed against a South Carolina company on allegations of racial discrimination. The suit started with seven black plant employees who brought suit in 2004 on behalf of a proposed class including more than 100 former and current black employees. The plaintiffs alleged that they were subjected to systematic racial discrimination and forced to work within a hostile environment, which included the regular use of racial slurs and the passing of racially insensitive email messages.
- In 2007, the plaintiffs sought filed for certification as a class action.
- The District Court denied the motion.
- In 2008, the plaintiffs appealed the Fourth Circuit.
- The plaintiffs prevailed, and the case was sent back to district court.
- The court then granted two class action certifications. The first was for the lack of job advancement and the second was for the alleged hostile work environment.
In response, the company filed four motions to decertify the class action status. In 2012, the court ruled to decertify the job advancement class. Relying on the holding in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the district court determined that the class members did not have enough commonality and decertified the class.
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the district court overstepped its boundaries and misapplied the commonality standard, because the facts in the Dukes case are broadly different than the facts in the South Carolina case.