United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE, AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA (UAW), AND ITS LOCAL 1869, Plaintiffs,
GENERAL MOTORS LLC, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S RENEWED
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW OR A NEW TRIAL
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III United States District Judge
United Auto Workers and its Local 1869 ("UAW")
filed a complaint alleging that Defendant General Motors LLC
("GM") violated a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The case went to trial and the jury returned a verdict for
UAW. GM now moves the Court to enter judgment as a matter of
law in GM's favor, or to order a new trial. For the
reasons stated below, the Court will deny the motion.
Bosman, Linda Chapman, and Ovidiu Kowalski worked for GM in
the Surface Product Engineering (SPE) unit. See ECF
93. In September 2009, GM laid off Bosman, Chapman, and
Kowalski. Id. In 2010 and 2011, GM hired new
employees into the SPE unit. Id. UAW filed suit
against GM on behalf of Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski.
According to the complaint, GM breached seniority provisions
of the 2007 Local Agreement by discharging the three
employees and by refusing to recall them at a later date. ECF
case was assigned to Judge O'Meara, who granted summary
judgment for GM. UAW appealed. The Sixth Circuit reversed and
remanded for the trial court to resolve two questions of
fact: (1) whether Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski were capable
of performing the work when laid off; and (2) whether Bosman,
Chapman, and Kowalski were capable of performing the work-and
thus had a right to be recalled-when GM hired new employees
into the SPE unit. Int'l Union, UAW v. Gen. Motors
LLC, 529 F.App'x 760, 764-65 (6th Cir. 2013).
the remand, Judge O'Meara granted UAW's motion for a
jury trial over GM's objection and transferred the case.
The Court held a trial by jury, which returned a verdict for
UAW. ECF 95. GM's renewed motion for judgment as a matter
of law, or a new trial, followed.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), a party may file a
renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, or a new
trial, after entry of judgment. A court may grant a motion
for judgment as a matter of law if "there is no legally
sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to
find" for a party on any issue. Denhof v. City of
Grand Rapids, 494 F.3d 534, 543 (6th Cir. 2007)
(quotations omitted). When reviewing a Rule 50 motion, the
Court construes the evidence "in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party." Id.
Rule 59, a court may grant a motion for a new trial if
"the verdict is clearly against the weight of the
evidence." Id. To evaluate the motion, the
court "must compare the opposing proofs, weigh the
evidence, and set aside the verdict" only if it is
unreasonable. J.C. Wyckoff & Assocs. v. Standard Fire
Ins. Co., 936 F.2d 1474, 1487 (6th Cir. 1991). But
"the court is not to set aside the verdict simply
because it believes another outcome is more justified."
Denhof, 494 F.3d at 543.
trial, the Court submitted two questions of fact to the jury:
(1) Did GM violate the 2007 Local Agreement when it laid off
Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski?; and (2) Did GM violate the
2007 Local Agreement when it did not recall Bosman, Chapman,
and Kowalski to the open positions in the SPE in 2010 and
2011? See ECF 95. The jury answered "yes"
to both questions. GM argues that UAW failed to provide
sufficient evidence on both questions and that the jury's
verdict was against the clear weight of the evidence.
The 2009 Lay-Offs
trial, UAW presented a variety of evidence to show that the
former employees were capable of doing the work in the SPE
unit at the time they were laid off. GM management had
authored most of the evidence introduced by the UAW. For
example, GM management classified Bosman and Chapman as
"Level 7" senior designers with "expert"
design skill sets, and Kowalski as a "Level 6"
designer with "proficient" design skill sets. Pl.
Trial Exh. 5; ECF 105, PgID 2201-02. GM management awarded
all three former employees merit pay increases. Pl. Trial
Exh. 8; ECF 105, PgID 2203. Additionally, GM provided full
"enhanced variable pay" bonuses to each former
employee each time the bonuses were offered. Pl. Trial Exh.
8, 12; ECF 105, PgID 2277-79. GM supervisors wrote
performance reviews of Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski; each
review stated that the former employees had achieved their
performance objectives. Pl. Trial Exh. 16-17, 19-23. GM never
enrolled any of the three former employees in the
"performance improvement plan, " a program designed
for employees with performance deficiencies. ECF 104, PgID
2013 (Bosman's testimony), id. at 2058
(Chapman's testimony), id. at 2087-88
(Kowalski's testimony); ECF 105, PgID 2209 (GM supervisor
Debbie Lystad's testimony). In addition, Lystad testified
that Bosman, Chapman, and Kowalski performed their jobs well,
and had never been considered incapable of performing their
jobs prior to being laid off. ECF 105, PgID 2157, 2138-39.
And when the former employees were informed of their layoffs,
GM managers told them it was not related to their work
performance. ECF 104, PgID 2028, 2074, 2099.
contends that the testimony of the employees themselves
regarding their skill sets is generally not entitled to any
weight. ECF 98, PgID 1772 (citing Majewski v. Automatic
Data Processing, Inc., 274 F.3d 1106, 1116 (6th Cir.
2001)). Instead, GM argues, the opinion of the pertinent
decision maker-Lystad-controls the assessment of an
employee's capabilities. Id. (citing Shapira
v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 88 F.Supp.2d 813, 829 (E.D.
Tenn. 1998), aff'd, 201 F.3d 441 (6th Cir.
1999)). GM's argument is well taken, but unavailing.
UAW's evidence regarding the former employee's
capabilities originated from GM management, not from the
employees. In essence, UAW argued to the jury that GM
leadership had ...