The Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak Class Action Litigation

The Plaintiffs initiated this class action race discrimination case under the federal civil rights laws against Amtrak on November 9, 1999.

The Amtrak Trilogy. Kenneth Campbell, et al, v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, CA No. 1:99CV02979 (EGS), is the third in a trilogy of major race discrimination employment cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Amtrak on behalf of African-American employees and applicants. The first case, Thornton, et al. v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, CA No. 1:98CV00890 (EGS), involved only African-American track workers in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor who were represented by the Pennsylvania Federation of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, was eventually settled. The second case, McLaurin, et al. v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation, CA No. 1:98CV2019 (EGS), involved African-American management level employees of Amtrak; it too was eventually settled.

Campbell is the largest case of the Amtrak trilogy. The Plaintiffs and the classes they seek to represent include all black current and former employees of Amtrak in union-represented jobs nationwide (except the NE Corridor track workers), and applicants for such jobs.

Several Amended Complaints have been filed in the years since. The current complaint is the Fourth Amended Complaint, although pending before the Court is a motion for leave to file a Fifth Amended Complaint. In the Amended Complaints, the named Plaintiffs allege that they, along with the putative class members they seek to represent, have been subjected to a systemic pattern and practice of racial discrimination involving a number of racially discriminatory employment practices. The challenged policies, practices, and procedures include racially discriminatory hiring, job assignment, advancement, training, discipline, work assignments, terms and conditions of employment, and imposition of a racially hostile work environment.

All three cases of the Amtrak trilogy have been litigated before United States District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

Amtrak at first tried to have the Campbell case thrown out of court, filing motions to dismiss the plaintiffs’ individual claims and to dismiss the class claims. Judge Sullivan denied Amtrak’s motions in a pair of published decisions on September 6, 2001, and September 26, 2002.

When the case began, and at every step since, Plaintiffs’ attorneys have told the Plaintiffs and class members that the litigation would be a very long and difficult road – and it has been. Yet the Plaintiffs, the class members, and their counsel, have all persevered.

Today, there are 79 named Plaintiffs who seek to represent two or more classes (at least one class of current and former employees and at least one class of job applicants) which number in the thousands. The Plaintiffs and several hundred potential class members have worked with the attorneys to provide evidence to support class certification and the allegations of the complaint.

The parties then engaged in years of litigation, including motions, discovery, injunction proceedings, and more discovery. The Plaintiffs’ attorneys traveled all over the continental United States seeking evidence, talking to class members, defending depositions of Plaintiffs, and taking testimony of managers. They won court orders on a number of important discovery issues.

Most recently, after extended battles over many legal issues, the parties agreed to undertake a major project resulting in the construction of a joint database of electronic employment information. This joint database was desirable because Amtrak’s various changes to its electronic database systems made statistical analysis problematic. Constructing an agreed joint database is important because it will permit the parties – and the Court – to concentrate on the essential statistical analysis that is often critical in large discrimination cases, rather than on a debate over whose method of combining the various electronic databases was proper. Although Plaintiffs’ side had some input into how the database was constructed, it is all Amtrak’s data.

CURRENT STATUS OF THE CAMPBELL, et al. v. AMTRAK LITIGATION

Class Certification

  • The class certification motion was filed on February 21, 2012, and briefs were filed by the parties all through 2012.  The class certification motion is still pending before U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.  We requested the Court to certify two classes, one for African-American employees and another for African-American job applicants, and also presents a set of alternatives for sub-classes to be certified for African-American employees broken down by job craft groupings.  The class certification motion presents a set of legal issues for the Court to determine as to how the case should be tried in court, and discusses the common issues among the class members and why those issues predominate the litigation, the ways in which the named Plaintiffs’ claims are typical of the claims of the class, and the reasons why the class representatives and Class Counsel are adequate representatives of the class. The Plaintiffs’ class certification motion was accompanied by the reports of four experts addressing statistical analysis, industrial-organizational psychology, and collective bargaining agreements and labor relations history in the railroad industry.  With the motion, we filed supporting memoranda of law accompanied by hundreds of pages of supporting evidence from Amtrak documents, testimony taken in discovery during the litigation, and supporting declarations from dozens of Plaintiffs and class members.  See these links:

o    Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification

o    Plaintiffs’ Memorandum Supporting Class Certification

Amtrak filed its opposition to class certification, along with its experts’ reports, its evidence, and declarations from managers and executives.  Amtrak also moved to disqualify some of our experts, and to toss out one of our theories of the case and some of our arguments, all of which we vigorously opposed as meritless.  We also filed a reply memorandum countering Amtrak’s opposition and we filed our Experts’ rebuttal reports.

o    Amtrak’s Memorandum Opposing Class Certification

o    Plaintiffs’ Reply Memorandum Supporting Class Certification

o    Amtrak’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Disparate Impact Theory

  • Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Disparate Impact

o    Amtrak’s Motion to Strike Arguments

  • Plaintiffs Opposition to Motion to Strike Arguments

After about a year, Judge Sullivan asked the parties to file additional briefs addressing any recent developments in the case law.  We filed our brief in January, 2014, and Amtrak filed its brief in March, 2014.  Since then, we are simply in a waiting mode for the Court’s decision on class certification.

o    Plaintiffs’ Supplemental Memorandum

o    Amtrak’s Supplemental Memorandum

The question many of you may want to ask is whether or not there is anything that can be done to hasten a decision on the class certification motion, so let us answer it plainly: NO, there is not.  Judge Sullivan is a federal judge, appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, as provided in the Constitution.  He is under no legal time deadline, and he should not be rushed.  It is a very important decision with national consequences, not only for our case, but, potentially, as a precedent for other cases.  The judge must make the decision carefully and wisely.  He would not be influenced at all by any request for action that we, or any of you, or even all of us, might make.  At the same time, he would, assuredly, not want to hear from us about this.  All we can do is wait.

Mediation

Just prior to the motion for class certification being filed, at Judge Sullivan’s urging, the parties agreed to enter into mediated settlement discussions.  Judge Sullivan appointed Linda Singer, of the JAMS organization, to serve as mediator.  Ms. Singer had successfully mediated settlement agreements in the two previous Amtrak cases, Thornton, et al. v. Amtrak and McLaurin, et al. v. Amtrak (see above).  A period of 95 days was allocated for mediation.

 

We assembled a team of Plaintiffs drawn from various parts of Amtrak’s organization to advise and assist the attorneys in the mediation, including Ken Campbell, Takeela Saunders, Sabrenna Mumphrey, and Barry Price.  Numerous attorneys participated, including Tim Fleming, Bob Childs and Abby Richardson from Wiggins, Childs, Quinn & Pantazis, and Bob Bruskin, Matthew Handley, and Dennis Corkery from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.  Our team assembled a monetary demand and a comprehensive slate of changes to personnel and diversity practices and policies, and other workplace reforms that we felt would be progressive, cost-effective, and mutually beneficial, and a claims resolution process.  Now, due to the confidentiality rules of mediation, we cannot state here – and the team members cannot verbally tell you – what actually was offered, said, or done inside the mediation.  We all signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting such disclosures.  (So please do not ask.)  However, what we can tell you is that the mediation did not last long: only one day, February 12, 2013, in Washington, D.C.  It became clear that no agreement could be reached.  Accordingly, the parties informed Judge Sullivan that the mediation had failed, and that the Court should proceed with its consideration of the class certification motion.

In Memoriam

Sadly, several of our brothers and sisters have passed during this long fight.  Recently, plaintiff Michael Helton died.  Michael was a commissary clerk, then a baggage clerk in Chicago, and we knew him to be a fine man, a good Amtrak employee, and a committed participant in this cause.  He was among the first plaintiffs added to the case and appeared at the press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at the very beginning of the case.  Minnie Baker, another plaintiff, who was an usher/information booth clerk at Penn Station in New York City, died a few years ago.  Minnie was a friendly and gracious person, also dedicated to this case.  James Gill, a class member who was a Coach Cleaner in Seattle, died last year.  James was active in the case from the beginning.  Tim Murphy, another class member, who provided a declaration for the class certification motion and testified in a deposition last year, also recently passed.  Tim was a Locomotive Engineer, and later, a Utility Worker and an Assistant Conductor, out of Washington, D.C.  Tim was a frequent correspondent with counsel, a hardy supporter of the case, and a friend.  Most recently, the Rev. Donald Rodgers passed away on May 9, 2014.  Rev. Rodgers was a conductor who lived in Florida and, later, in South Carolina and was an original Campbell plaintiff; he too appeared at the initial press conference at the National Press Club.  Rev. Rodgers was a frequent and very helpful correspondent with counsel, a dedicated leader of the class and a friend.  All will be greatly missed, and forever appreciated.

Minnie Baker’s and Michael Helton’s and Rev. Rodgers’ estates have been or are being substituted as party-plaintiffs in Campbell.  Such substitutions are not necessary for deceased class members, but their estates generally would retain their discrimination claims in this case.  In all cases of deaths of a plaintiff or class member, there must be an Administrator or Executor or other Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate appointed or established under the applicable state law.  If you know of any plaintiff or class member who has passed, please let the person’s family or estate representative know that they should contact the attorneys to inform us so that we can work with them to make sure the estates are properly substituted in the case and/or apprised of the results of the case in the future.

Probably there are quite a few other class members who have passed away during this litigation, including folks who were active in the case and supportive of our cause.  They will all be missed, and, with them in our collective memory, we will carry on.

Thank you for visiting this webpage and please return for regular updates.


ATTORNEYS AND STAFF

The Plaintiffs in Campbell, et al. v. Amtrak are represented by Timothy B. Fleming and Robert F. Childs of Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis, LLC, and by Matthew K. Handley of The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.  Longtime Campbell Plaintiffs’ attorney Warren Kaplan, formerly of The Washington Lawyers’ Committee,
has vowed to come out of retirement to participate in the trial of the Campbell case, when the time comes.

COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?

If you are a black current or former Amtrak employee or job applicant, and you have evidence or information regarding your experiences at AMTRAK, that you want to share with the attorneys, or if you have a question or comment, please call (205)458-1213 or fill out this form so that your communication may be routed to the appropriate person on the Campbell v. AMTRAK litigation staff.

We welcome your participation and your valuable input.