Ruehl v. Viacom, Inc.

“Single Filing” Rule and “Equitable Tolling” Doctrines Rejected in Decertified Class Action

U.S. Chamber's Position: 

NCLC urged the Third Circuit to reverse the district court’s application of the “single-filing” rule to permit an individual ADEA plaintiff to “piggyback” onto the EEOC charge of a putative class representative, even after conditionally certified classes have been decertified. NCLC also asked the Third Circuit to clarify whether the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act requires demographic information to be provided to every separated employee’s release of claims, or whether that information can be made “available upon request.” NCLC argued that a technically deficient release is no excuse for an employee’s failure to comply with an applicable statute of limitations for filing age discrimination claims.

Case Outcome: 

The Third Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. The Third Circuit held that the underlying facts did not support equitable tolling of the plaintiff’s charge, which was filed five years too late. Moreover, the court held that when a class is decertified because the plaintiffs are not “similarly situated,” those plaintiffs are in a qualitatively different position than plaintiffs in a certified class, and the "single-filing" rule does not apply.

Procedural History: 

Amicus brief filed 4/26/06. Oral argument held 12/12/06. Decided 9/7/07.