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Gason v. Dow Corning Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

March 26, 2015

LUCIA GASON, Plaintiff,
v.
DOW CORNING CORPORATION, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

THOMAS L. LUDINGTON, District Judge.

On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff Lucia Gason filed a complaint alleging that her employer Dow Corning Corporation transferred her to Belgium in retaliation for filing a race and national origin discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She alleges that Dow Corning retaliated against her in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

On March 13, 2015, Gason filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking, inter alia, to enjoin Dow Corning from forcing her to relocate to Belgium in April 2015. Gason's request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Dow Corning from transferring her to Belgium will be denied.

I.

Gason is Belgian citizen of Japanese and Belgian ancestry.[1] Compl. ¶ 10. She began working with Dow Corning in Belgium in August 1993. Id. ¶ 9.

In February 2007, Dow Corning transferred Gason to its headquarters in Midland, Michigan, as an expatriate under a Belgian contract. Id. ¶ 11. About five years later, in December 2011, Dow Corning promoted Gason to Director of Procurement. Because this was a Director-level position, Gason had to be "localized" and give up her expatriate status.[2] Gason alleges that Dow Corning promised to apply for a Green Card on Gason's behalf since she was giving up her expatriate status. Id. ¶ 16. Because applying for a green card is a lengthy process, Gason was localized under a L1-A visa in April 1, 2012.[3] Id. ¶ 17. Dow Corning acknowledges that it began applying for a green card on Gason's behalf.

A.

In September 2014, Shrenik Nanvati (Gason's immediate manager) and the Procurement leadership decided to remove Gason from the role of Procurement Shared Services Manager. Stokes Decl. ¶ 4. Dow Corning contends that the decision "was based on serious and continuing problems that had come to Nanavati's attention during Gason's time in the role." Def.'s Resp. 4. Gason disputes this allegation; for purposes of Gason's motion, however, this dispute of fact need not be resolved.

Heidi Landry Chan, Vice President of Procurement and Logistics, believed that Gason could be an effective category manager; however, no category manager position was open at the time. Def.'s Resp., Stokes Decl. ¶ 5. Ms. Chan determined that she could create a new category manager position, but that it would have to be based in Belgium to support Dow Corning's operations in Europe. Gason contends that, in September 2014, Dow Corning informed her that she would be transferred to Belgium in June 2015 for the newly-created category manager position. Pl.'s Mot. Prel. Inj. ¶ 12. After the decision was made to transfer Gason to the new category manager position in Belgium, the process of seeking a green card for her was abandoned. Def.'s Resp., Stokes Decl. ¶ 6.

At the hearing, Gason's counsel contended that Dow Corning had always intended to transfer Gason when her visa expires-and not before then, which is why the June transfer date was selected. And Gason's counsel further explained that later research confirmed that Gason's visa expires in October 2015, and that, accordingly, the transfer date should be in October, not in June or April.

In contrast, Dow Corning's counsel disputes that Dow Corning ever tied Gason's transfer to the expiration of her visa. He further disputed that Dow Corning had ever identified June 2015 as Gason's official transfer date.

For purposes of Gason's motion for preliminary injunction, this Court will accept Gason's assertion in her complaint-that Dow Corning represented to Gason in September 2014 that her transfer date was June 2015-as true.

B.

A month after Mr. Nanvati informed Gason of his decision to transfer her to Belgium, in October 2014, Gason filed an ethics complaint with Dow Corning attorney Courtney Goldberg, claiming that her supervisor Ms. Chan was discriminating against her because of her ancestry and ethnicity. Compl. ¶ 28. Gason alleges that Ms. Chan "repeatedly told Gason that Chan strongly preferred to work with native English speakers." Id. ¶ 29.

On November 7, 2014, Human Resources Director Stokes met with one of Gason's peers, Heena Mehta, to discuss Mehta's concerns about Gason's conduct. Mehta explained that Gason had asked Mehta to "plead her case to Kristy, to try and save her job." Def.'s Resp. Stokes Decl. ¶ 9. Mehta felt that Gason's request was coercive and that Gason was undermining support for whomever replaced her as Procurement Shared Services Manager. Id. About two weeks ...


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