Philadelphia, PA, June 14, 2023 – The Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the District Court’s Order and remanded the case to the District of New Jersey to determine whether wrong-forum tolling applies to Plaintiff-Appellant Lee Williams’ class discrimination claims and/or whether Williams has plausibly plead a prima facie pattern-or-practice claim of discrimination against Tech Mahindra (Americas), Inc. (“Tech Mahindra”).
Williams is a former employee of Tech Mahindra, an Indian information technology company. He alleges that Tech Mahindra engages in a pattern-or-practice of discrimination against non-South Asians in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and that he was terminated as a result of these unlawful practices.
Williams initially sought to join a class action lawsuit pending against Tech Mahindra in North Dakota titled Grant v. Tech Mahindra (Americas), Inc. (D.N.D.). In June 2019, the plaintiff in that case (who was also represented by Kotchen & Low LLP), filed a motion to amend the complaint to add Williams as a named plaintiff and to join his Section 1981 pattern-or-practice claims. The Grant Court denied the motion to amend, and compelled Grant to arbitration.
Williams then filed a putative class action lawsuit against Tech Mahindra on April 21, 2020 in the District of New Jersey. His lawsuit was filed approximately four years and eight months following his termination by Tech Mahindra. Tech Mahindra moved to dismiss Williams’ complaint on three grounds: (1) untimely under the statute of limitations, (2) lack of Article III standing, and (3) failure to allege a plausible claim of race discrimination. In opposition, Williams argued that his complaint was timely under both wrong-forum tolling and American Pipe tolling. The District Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that American Pipe tolling did not suspend the statute of limitations for absent class members’ class claims, and found that Williams failed to plausibly allege but-for causation on an individual basis (which is required for individual, but not pattern-or-practice claims). The District Court failed to consider whether wrong-forum tolling applied to Williams in its Order.
Williams appealed the District Court’s Order to the Third Circuit on May 26, 2021. Williams argued that the District Court erred in dismissing his class claims because those claims were equitably tolled under wrong-forum tolling while he diligently and reasonably attempted to assert those claims in the pending Grant class action. Williams also argued that he sufficiently pled a class action pattern-or-practice claim against Tech Mahindra.
The Third Circuit agreed with Williams, finding it was error for the District Court to dismiss Williams’ claims as untimely without considering wrong-forum tolling and that Williams was required only to allege a prima facie claim of discrimination against Tech Mahindra to survive a motion to dismiss. Specifically, the Third Circuit held that “as long as Williams’s complaint plausibly alleges a prima facie case under the pattern-or-practice method, his § 1981 claim cannot be dismissed on the ground that he failed to plead that race was the but-for cause of any individual class member’s injury, including his own.”
The Third Circuit’s decision can be found here.
The case is Williams v. Tech Mahindra (Americas), Inc., No. 3:20-cv-04684 (D.N.J.).