The plaintiff-appellant, who worked for General Motors for more than 30 years, sued the company for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, claiming that she experienced a hostile work environment and retaliation. She alleged that she suffered a variety of sexually harassing comments, as well as other slights such as being the only employee denied a break and the only employee without a key to the office. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer on both her hostile work environment and retaliation claims. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the plaintiff’s retaliation claim, but reversed and remanded the lower court’s ruling on her hostile work environment claim, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether her allegations were sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to violate Title VII.
The plaintiff-appellant sued his employer, AT&T, in state court under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and AT&T removed the action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiff alleged that his immediate supervisor made a series of sexually inappropriate comments to him over the course of a year that created a hostile work environment. These comments included calling him by a girl’s name and telling him he looked like a girl. The district court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his supervisor’s conduct toward him was because of his gender. The appellate court noted that the plaintiff stated in his deposition that he believed that his supervisor made these derogatory comments because he knew or suspected that the plaintiff was gay and that sexual orientation discrimination was not a protected classification under Title VII or Michigan law.
The plaintiff-appellant worked as a mental health technician for the defendant, Detroit Receiving Hospital’s Mental Health Crisis Center. Her duties included assisting registered nurses with treating psychiatric patients. A few days after assisting a nurse with the mistaken discharge of a patient who should not have been discharged, the plaintiff’s employment was terminated, even though she consistently received high ratings on her performance evaluations. The plaintiff sued the defendant for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, but the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of sex discrimination, in part because two men committed “nearly identical” infractions of “comparable seriousness” and were not terminated like the plaintiff. The appellate court remanded the case for trial proceedings.
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.”