United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Stephanie Dawkins Davis United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#29]
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Bradley Hong initiated this employment discrimination suit on
February 14, 2018, alleging violations of both state and
federal law. Dkt. No. 1. Defendants now move for summary
judgment on both claims in Plaintiff's Complaint. Dkt.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment [#29]. After reviewing the briefs, the Court finds
that it can resolve the matter without a hearing.
See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons set
forth below, the Court will DENY Defendants' Motion.
Bradley Hong is a Chinese-American United States citizen who
began working for Defendant Key Safety Restraint Systems
(“KSS”) on October 15, 2007 as its Vice President
for Global IT. Dkt. No. 1, p. 2 (Pg. Id. 2). At all
relevant times to this suit, KSS has been owned by Ningbo
Joyson Electronic Corp. (“Joyson Electronic”), a
Chinese company headquartered in Ningbo, China. Dkt. No. 29,
p. 12 (Pg. ID 309).
April 2017, Defendant Joe Perkins became Plaintiff's
supervisor at KSS. Id. at p. 8 (Pg. ID 451).
Plaintiff asserts that during staff meetings, Perkins would
regularly make disparaging remarks directed at people of
Chinese ethnicity, and specifically towards Joyson
Electronic's leadership team. Dkt. No. 34, p. 8 (Pg. ID
451). Plaintiff claims Perkins would make statements such as,
“Your Chinese people doing this” and “Your
Chinese people doing that, ” and would frequently call
ideas coming from Joyson Electronic, “F'ing
stupid.” Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 4-5 (Pg. ID 365-66). Jie
Song -- a senior manager at KSS -- corroborated this pattern
of behavior, testifying that when he previously worked with
Perkins at a company called Nexteer, Perkins would use the
“F word” in a way that was derogatory towards the
Chinese. Dkt. No. 34-8, p. 12 (Pg. ID 538).
particular meeting held the day before Plaintiff was
terminated from KSS, Perkins was discussing Joyson
Electronic's impending acquisition of a North American
company. Dkt. No. 29-5, p. 7 (Pg. ID 368). During that
discussion, Plaintiff claims Perkins made the following
statement: “You know Trump doesn't like fucking
Chinese, so the chance of that approval I guess is pretty
low.” Id. According to Plaintiff, Perkins then
added, “Bradley, I don't mean you.”
Id. While Plaintiff acknowledges that Perkins'
comments were typically aimed at Joyson Electronic, and never
Plaintiff personally, he maintains that such comments made
him feel uncomfortable. Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 366).
Especially since Perkins would regularly single Plaintiff out
by saying, “sorry, Bradley.” Id.
September 1, 2017, Yuxin Tang was appointed to serve as
interim President of KSS. Dkt. No. 29, p. 13 (Pg. ID 310).
Joyson Electronic directed Tang to begin taking measures to
improve KSS's financial performance. Id. To that
end, Tang informed the management team at KSS, which included
Perkins, that the company would be undergoing a reduction in
force (“RIF”). Dkt. No. 35-2, pp. 19-20 (Pg. ID
706-07). During a meeting held with the management team on
October 2, 2017, Tang identified several positions within KSS
that he thought could be eliminated during the RIF to help
reduce expenses. Dkt. No. 29, p. 15 Pg. ID 312). He
specifically identified five Vice President positions,
including Plaintiff's position of VP for IT. See
Dkt. No. 29-2, p. 17 (Pg. ID 347).Ultimately, however, Tang
left it to the discretion of his management team to make
recommendations as to who KSS should terminate. See
Dkt. No. 35-2, p. 20 (Pg. ID 707) (Q: Did you give the U.S.
management team discretion to come up with a proposal as to
how this would be accomplished? Tang: Yeah, based on this
target I asked everybody to come up with a proposal and work
October 17, 2017, Perkins emailed Tang a list of individuals
that he recommended terminating as a beginning point for the
RIF. See Dkt. No. 29-8, pp. 13-14 (Pg. ID 395-96).
Among the list of individuals was Plaintiff -- one of two
Chinese employees that Perkins selected for the RIF.
Id. In a sworn declaration, Tang claims that he
specifically directed Perkins to place Plaintiff's name
on the list because Tang had doubts about Plaintiff's
potential moving forward. See Dkt. No. 29-2, p. 7
(pg. ID 337). But in an earlier deposition, Tang testified
that the names on the termination list were presented to him
by the management team. See Dkt. No. 35-2, p. 22
(Pg. ID 709). Further, that because he had just arrived in
the United States, he trusted his management team to identify
the right individuals to terminate. See id.
October 27, 2017, Defendant KSS notified Plaintiff that he
had been terminated as part of the RIF. Dkt. No. 34, p. 9
(Pg. ID 452). Following his termination, Nathen Rajen --
Plaintiff's subordinate -- assumed Plaintiff's job
responsibilities. Id. at p. 13 (Pg. ID 456).
According to Tang, Rajen took over as the functional head of
IT, but without the title. Id. at pp. 13-14 (Pg. ID
now brings the instant suit, alleging he was wrongfully
terminated on account of his race, in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 and Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act
(“ELCRA”). See Dkt. No. 1.