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Haygood v. General Motors, LLC

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

July 6, 2018


          Anthony P. Patti United States Magistrate Judge


          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge

         In this civil action, Plaintiff Michael Haygood alleges that Defendant General Motors, LLC (“GM”), his former employer, unlawfully caused him to be fired by his subsequent employer, non-party Aramark. GM did this, Plaintiff alleges, by revoking Plaintiff's access to the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan-the site of his job with Aramark-in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaining about a GM car that he leased after he retired from GM.

         Plaintiff asserts a claim for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as state-law tort claims for defamation, tortious interference with contract, and tortious interference with economic expectancy. GM has moved to dismiss all claims asserted in the action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with regard to his Section 1981 claim, and will dismiss that claim under Rule 12(b)(6) for that reason. As to Plaintiff's state-law claims, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, and will therefore dismiss them without prejudice.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Allegations

         In his Complaint filed on January 31, 2018 (ECF No. 1, Compl.), Plaintiff makes the following factual allegations.

         Plaintiff, who is African-American, was employed by GM for approximately 40 years as a skilled trades helper at the GM Technical Center (“Tech Center”) in Warren, Michigan, until he retired in April 2009. (Compl. ¶ 7-8.) Shortly thereafter, in October 2010, Plaintiff began to work for non-party Aramark, who had a contract with GM, as a custodian at the Tech Center. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         In 2015, Plaintiff leased a GM-manufactured Cadillac Escalade through an authorized dealer. Plaintiff alleges that he experienced extensive and ongoing problems with the Escalade, and discussed these problems with several GM employees at the Tech Center. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff first mentioned them to an engineer, who suggested that Plaintiff speak to a GM vice president named Ken Kelzer with whom Plaintiff was acquainted. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) Plaintiff spoke to Kelzer, and also to another GM executive, Mark Reuss. Plaintiff alleges that Kelzer was receptive to Plaintiff's concerns, and suggested that Plaintiff correspond with him by email, which Plaintiff did. (Id. ¶¶ 15-18.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the problems with the leased Escalade persisted, and on October 11, 2016, Plaintiff and his wife participated in a telephone conference with GM's customer service department. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) During the telephone conference, Plaintiff's wife stated that if the problems were not addressed, she would bring them to the attention of GM's Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra at a public forum that week, and also that she and Plaintiff would retain a lawyer. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on October 14, 2016, GM banned him from continuing to work for Aramark at the Tech Center, where he had worked as a custodian for six years. Plaintiff alleges that he was instructed to gather his belongings and return his security credentials, and was escorted off the premises without explanation as people took pictures of the incident. In an interview with Plaintiff four days later, Aramark's Human Resources Manager, with whom Plaintiff had been on friendly terms, changed noticeably in her demeanor towards Plaintiff, and told him throughout the conversation to “be honest.” (Id. ¶¶ 23-27.)

         Plaintiff alleges that GM ultimately gave Aramark no choice but to terminate Plaintiff's employment when it banned him from the Tech Center. Plaintiff was terminated by Aramark on October 20, 2016, allegedly for “violating a shop rule that prohibits assaulting, fighting, threatening, intimidating, coercing or interfering with employees or supervisors.” (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.) Plaintiff alleges that “Aramark breached its contract with Plaintiff because Plaintiff was not terminated for just cause.” (Id. ¶ 30.)

         Plaintiff's union grieved his termination, and in the course of pursuing that grievance, on February 1, 2017, union officials allegedly learned of false and defamatory statements made by GM employees regarding Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) According to the Complaint, these included:

a. Plaintiff threatened Michelle Kline, [Kelzer]'s administrative assistant, and refused to leave the executive office area.
b. Plaintiff threatened a team lead in the Executive Care ...

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