Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Court of Michigan

Domestic Case Law

Donajkowski v. Alpena Power Co. Supreme Court of Michigan (1999)

Gender discrimination

The Supreme Court held that under the Michigan Contribution statute, M.C.L. § 600.2925a, an employer sued for sex discrimination due to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement can seek contribution from the union that is party to the agreement.  Female employees brought a 4 claim against employer, Alpena Power Company, based on the collective bargaining agreement which created a new job classification for two female employees.  Previously, the two females had the same classification as their male counterparts.  Under this new classification, their pay was frozen.   Defendant filed a third party complaint seeking contribution from the union because defendant negotiated the agreement with the union.   The appellate court upheld the decision of the trial court allowing the third party complaint against the union, and the company and union appealed.  The Court found that defendant could seek contribution from the union; nothing in the language of the Michigan Civil Rights Act prohibited this.  Although generally, the statute was analogous to Title VII of federal law, the court noted that the state statute provided for a right to contribution, whereas federal law did not.  It also found that allowing for contribution did not oppose the legislative policy behind the statute, which among others, is that “discrimination in employment on the basis of sex is forbidden.”