National Origin Discrimination: 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e
Plaintiff filed suit against her former employer alleging violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e. Upon reconsideration, the Court now grants defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's national origin claim. Specifically, the Court found the plaintiff could not establish as a matter of law that her termination was pretextual.
Where plaintiff fails to present sufficient evidence to show that defendant's legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for termination were pretextual, summary judgment is appropriate. In this case, the defendant carried its burden to show that it fired plaintiff for poor performance. Accordingly, it was plaintiff's burden to show that the proffered reason, plaintiff's poor performance, did not actually motivate the discharge, or that the proffered reason was insufficient to motivate her discharge. In attempting to show that the dismissal was actually based upon discrimination, the plaintiff presented evidence that her supervisor, when they were co-workers, had laughed at plaintiff's speech. The Court found, however, that the incident referred to occurred well before plaintiff's termination at a time when supervisor was not plaintiff's supervisor but only a co-worker. Sporadic use of a slur directed at plaintiff's national origin is inadequate to support a claim under Title VII, nor is laughing at a pronunciation persuasive evidence of bias against a plaintiff's national origin nor persuasive evidence that plaintiff was terminated for some reason other than poor performance. Similarly, evidence that the supervisor had instructed plaintiff not to talk to people in the plant because they could not understand the plaintiff was insufficient to show termination was improperly based. The incident referred to occurred some 13 months before the termination. In addition, plaintiff failed to produce probative evidence to show that there was not a problem with other people understanding her pronunciation. Finally, although plaintiff presented statements from her co-workers that the supervisor treated plaintiff differently from other workers, the evidence was insufficient to persuade the Court because there was no evidence that similarly situated employees were treated differently. Accordingly, the Court granted defendant's motion for summary disposition.
Fay Allen vs. UAW-GM Human Resource Center, Case No. 94-CV-71950-DT, 10/1/97, Woods, G. E. (dkt #27).
This article was written by William F. Frey, a partner in our Litigation Department, and previously appeared in the January 1998 edition of the Michigan Bar Journal.