United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
QUINTON BROWN, ALVIN SIMMONS, SHELDON SINGLETARY, GERALD WHITE, JASON GUY, and JACOB RAVENELL, individually and on behalf of the class they seek to represent, Plaintiffs,
NUCOR CORPORATION and NUCOR STEEL BERKELEY, Defendants.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on plaintiffs' motion in
support of individual plaintiff Ramon Roane's request to
proceed with his claims as a named individual and for
exclusion from the settlement, ECF No. 621. For the reasons
set forth below, the court denies the motion.
December 8, 2003, thirteen plaintiffs filed a nationwide
class action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, in the United
States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas
against Nucor Corporation. On August 24, 2004, the
plaintiffs' claims were severed into four separate cases,
and each case was transferred to the judicial district in
which the unlawful employment practices allegedly occurred.
Accordingly, this case was transferred to the District of
South Carolina. Plaintiffs in the instant case (Quinton
Brown, Jason Guy, Alvin Simmons, Sheldon Singletary, Gerald
White, and Jacob Ravenell) are African-Americans who are
current or former employees of Nucor.This class of
African-American workers brought allegations of endemic
racial discrimination at the Huger, South Carolina location
of the Nucor steel plant. Plaintiffs claimed that Nucor
engaged in systemic racial discrimination in its selection
procedures, in creating racially hostile working conditions,
and having unequal terms and conditions of employment for its
multiple named plaintiffs allege that white coworkers would
use the terms “DAN”, or “dumb ass
n*****” to refer to African-American employees. There
were also instances of racially hostile graffiti in the Nucor
plant. Nucor allowed white employees to prominently display
the Confederate flag on their clothing and lunchboxes.
Indeed, the Nucor gift store sold Nucor-branded items
emblazoned with the Confederate flag. One named plaintiff
recalls being called “boy, ” a derogatory term
for African-American men, by a white supervisor. Another saw
emails with racially demeaning comments and photographs sent
through the Nucor email server. When African-American
employees would inform their white supervisors of the racial
remarks, they were ignored. Soon after one named plaintiff
informed his white supervisor that African-American employees
were treated as “second-class citizens, ” he was
terminated. Racial epithets, including “n*****”,
were broadcast over the plant-wide radio system, along with
the Confederate anthems “Dixie” and “High
named plaintiffs recall instances of being passed over for
promotions for less qualified white employees. In one
instance, an African-American employee had to train the white
employee who ultimately received the supervisor promotion, as
the white employee had no experience in that department.
White employees were also afforded flexibility in scheduling
their work shift, while a named plaintiff with a recently
hospitalized wife was informed by his white supervisor that
he could not return to the day shift, even though he needed
to care for his sick wife in the evenings. In addition, white
employees were allowed to train during their shifts, while
black employees were forbidden from doing so.
are two classes in this case-(1) the promotions class,
involving disparate treatment and disparate impact claims;
and (2) the hostile work environment class. ECF No. 471. The
class definition is as follows:
All African-Americans who are, as of the date of this order
[April 27, 2011], or were employed by Nucor Corporation or
Nucor Steel Berkeley at the Nucor Berkeley manufacturing
plant in Huger, South Carolina at any time between December
2, 1999, and the date of this order [April 27, 2011], in the
beam mill, hot mill, cold mill, melting, maintenance, and
shipping departments, and who may have been discriminated
against because of Nucor's challenged practices.
ECF No. 359 at 14; ECF No. 485.
parties entered into a settlement on February 22, 2018. ECF
No. 616. The lone class member who filed an objection to the
settlement was Ramon Roane (“Roane”), who was
previously a named class representative. Roane has had a
complicated history with this complicated case, including
being the target of a motion for sanctions for making public
statements accusing the court system of systemic racism. And
indeed, Nucor submitted a series of exhibits under
that include videos of Roane discussing the eyebrow-raising
statements that he made regarding this litigation. ECF No.
624. However, Roane's statements are not at the heart of
this issue-this matter is essentially before the court on
whether Roane should be allowed to opt out of the class at
this late stage. In short, the court certified the class in
this case after two trips to the Fourth Circuit and the
intervening case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes,
564 U.S. 338 (2011), which laid out what was required for
class certification. After the case was certified, Roane
posted a number of videos which contained negative statements
about this litigation, the judge, and the parties involved.
Nucor brought a motion for sanctions based on those videos,
and Roane resigned as a class representative. He remained,
however, a class member. At no point did Roane opt out of the
undisputable that Roane's individual claims as a named
party plaintiff were subsumed by the class claims. By sheer
virtue of Roane being a named class representative, this must
be true. A review of the docket reveals that Roane submitted
a sworn statement in support of the motion to certify class
There is nothing which I seek for myself that I do not also
seek for the class, and there is nothing that any class
member could seek which would conflict with what I want to
see happen from this case.
ECF No. 185, Ex. 1, Declaration of Roman Roane. For the court
to find that Roane has individual claims, the court would
have to disregard this sworn statement. This it cannot do.
Therefore, the court finds that Roane has no individualized
claims beyond the claims of the class.
Roane was no longer a named plaintiff representing class
members, he was a class member represented by the named
plaintiffs. Accordingly, under established class action
principles, he was bound by the judgment entered in the class
action as a party, so long as he was adequately represented,
had fair notice of his class membership, and declined to opt
out of the class. See Phillips Petroleum Co. v.
Shutts, 472 U.S. 797, 812 (1985). All of these factors
are fulfilled here. Roane does not contest the adequacy of
his representation, but he does argue that he was given
insufficient notice of his opportunity to opt out. The court
disagrees. Nucor sent a Class Notice which states in relevant
part: “If you do exclude yourself so you can start or
continue your own lawsuit against Nucor, you should talk to
your own lawyer soon, because your claims may be subject to a
statute of limitations.” ECF No. 621, Ex. 2, Class
Notice. The Class Notice gave Roane adequate notice of his
opportunity to opt out of the class. He declined to do so.
Roane was required to opt out in January 2017 when the class
notice was sent.
next argues that the court should grant relief from the class
opt-out deadline. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1)
allows the court to grant an extension of time for
“excusable neglect, ” as does Rule 60(b)(1). In