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Marotta v. Ford Motor Co.

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

March 26, 2018

FORD MOTOR CO., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Angelo J. Marotta alleges two counts of retaliation, under Title VII (Count I) and Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) (Count II), against his employer, defendant Ford Motor Company. This matter is presently before the Court on Ford's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 17). Oral argument was held on July 13, 2017. For the reasons stated below, Ford's motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Mr. Marotta began working for Ford on August 2, 1976. Mr. Marotta served as chairman of the Brownstown UAW Unit from 2005 through 2011. During his tenure, Mr. Marotta handled grievances for Ford employees, including his wife, Alanna Marotta. He maintained grievance files that contained personal identifying information (PII)[1] including hourly employees' names, Social Security numbers, home addresses, and home phone numbers.

         Mrs. Marotta filed a grievance in 2006 that was ultimately unsuccessful. She thereafter initiated medical leave and filed multiple EEOC charges. In 2014, Mrs. Marotta filed suit against Ford and three of its employees in this Court. On March 19, 2015, Mr. Marotta was deposed for his wife's lawsuit. (Doc. 18-1 at PageID 335). In April 2015, Mrs. Marotta purportedly asked Mr. Marotta to deliver a folder of documents to her attorney, Jeffrey Burg. These documents contained PII of approximately 120 Ford employees. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 414). Mr. Marotta claims that he did not know what information was contained in the folder. (Doc. 17-2 at PageID 140). Ford asserts that Burg showed Ford these documents on April 16, 2015, at which time discovery had concluded. (Doc. 8-5 at PageID 480). Ford further claims that Burg did not provide Ford with copies of these documents until April 23, 2015. (Id.).

         Ford asserts that this is the first time that it became aware that any documents produced by Mrs. Marotta contained PII. Upon this realization, Ford's counsel forwarded the documents to Brownstown HR Manager Mary Carol Moody. Moody determined that the documents contained private PII and should not have been accessible to Mrs. Marotta. Ford became suspicious of Mr. Marotta because he delivered the documents to Burg and had access to these types of documents containing PII as UAW Chairperson. Moody and Jennifer Cavill interviewed Mr. Marotta in the Labor Relations Office on May 7, 2015. (Doc. 17-2 at PageID 63-66). Mr. Marotta stated that Mrs. Marotta acquired the documents that he delivered to Burg from Mr. Marotta, CAC binders, [2] supervisors, other employees, and the region. (Doc. 17-2 at PageID 179).

         Ford asked Mr. Marotta to return the documents containing PII. (Doc. 17-2 at PageID 181). Mr. Marotta responded that the documents were in Burg's possession or within the CAC binders stored in the Marotta's home. (Id.). Mr. Marotta agreed to return home, search for documents containing PII, and, if he found any such documents, return them to Ford. (Id.). Moody suspended Mr. Marotta pending further investigation. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 416).

         Mr. Marotta filed a charge with the EEOC on May 14, 2015. He thereafter asked Mrs. Marotta to obtain copies of the documents containing PII that were stored at Burg's office. (Doc. 17-2 at PageID 156). Mrs. Marotta furnished Mr. Marotta with copies, which he provided to the EEOC, (id.), and two attorneys, (Doc. 17-2 at 160).

         Between May 12, 2015 and May 27, 2015, Ford made six demands to Mr. Marotta that he return the documents containing PII. (Doc. 18-5 at PageID 491-525). Mr. Marotta did not return the documents. Ford learned that Mr. Marotta had obtained copies from Burg and shared them with the E.E.O.C. and two attorneys. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 418). Ford ultimately filed an emergency motion to compel the return of all originals and copies of the documents containing PII. Ford also notified its employees about the compromised PII and provided credit insurance in case identity theft results in monetary losses. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 414).

         Moody continued to investigate. She located the CAC files and discovered that the Marottas had two CAC booklets; one from 2009 and one from 2010. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 416). Moody compared the CAC documents to the documents that Burg provided on April 23, 2015 and concluded that, while some of the Burg documents appeared in the CAC folders, others did not. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 417). Moody concluded that Mr. Marotta's failure to cooperate and return the documents mandated discharge. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 419). Moody consulted with two Ford managers who concurred with her conclusion. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 418). On June 25, 2015, Moody informed Mr. Marotta of his discharge, which was effective as of May 7, 2015. (Doc. 18-3 at PageID 419).

         Mr. Marotta filed a grievance on June 29, 2015, and a NLRB charge on September 29, 2015. On September 8, 2015, the EEOC advised Mr. Marotta that it was dismissing his charge, stating that Mr. Marotta was “suspended for a legitimate-non-discriminatory reason, violation of confidential and personal data. When your employer interviewed you regarding this breach of information, you admitted partial responsibility for some of the most offending documents . . . . You have not returned any documents, nor have you signed an affidavit provided to you confirming that you had not further disseminated the documents.” (Doc. 17-4 at PageID 323). The NLRB dismissed Mr. Marotta's charge on November 2, 2015. (Doc. 17-4 at PageID 326). Mr. Marotta filed the instant lawsuit on December 9, 2015. (Doc. 1).

         Mr. Marotta continued to pursue an internal grievance under the Ford-UAW Collective Bargaining Agreement grievance procedure. He claimed that his employment discharge did not satisfy the CBA contractual standard for just cause. A hearing was conducted on February 21, 2017 and accompanied by post-hearing briefs by Ford and UAW Local Union 600. (Doc. 25-2 at PageID 732). The Umpire evaluated whether there was just cause for Mr. Marotta's discharge. (Doc. 25-2 at PageID 743). On May 2, 2017, Umpire Charles F. Ammeson ordered Mr. Marotta reinstated from his May 2015 misconduct discharge with back pay and an expunged disciplinary record. (Doc. 25-2 at PageID 761).

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 56(c) empowers a court to render summary judgment “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Williams v. Mehra, 186 F.3d 685, 689 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Amway Distrib. Benefits Ass'n v. Northfield Ins. Co., 323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). Mere allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings will not meet this burden, nor will a mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 252. There must instead be evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. McLean v. 988011 Ontario, Ltd., 224 ...

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