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Hunter v. General Motors LLC

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

July 16, 2019

CYNTHIA HUNTER, Plaintiff
v.
GENERAL MOTORS LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (DKT. 36)

          Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States Magistrate Judge

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff, Cynthia Hunter, filed a complaint in state court for race and sex discrimination under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title VII and for retaliation under Elliott-Larsen on December 22, 2016. (Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal, Pg ID 8-23). Defendant, General Motors LLC, removed the action to federal court on February 1, 2017. (Dkt. 1). On January 3, 2018, the parties executed a consent for reference of this matter to the undersigned magistrate judge. (Dkt. 20). On January 5, 2018, District Judge Robert H. Cleland signed the consent and referred this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 21). After briefing and a hearing, on March 31, 2019, the Court granted GM's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment in its favor the following day. (Dkt. 33, 35). Hunter filed a timely motion for reconsideration on April 14, 2019. (Dkt. 36).

         B. Legal Standard

         Local Rule 7.1(g)(3) governs motions for reconsideration and provides as follows:

Generally, and without restricting the court's discretion, the court will not grant motions for rehearing or reconsideration that merely present the same issues ruled upon by the court, either expressly or by reasonable implication. The movant must not only demonstrate a palpable defect by which the court and the parties have been misled but also show that correcting the defect will result in a different disposition of the case.

E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(g)(3). A palpable defect is “(1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.” Henderson v. Walled Lake Consol. Sch., 469 F.3d 479, 496 (6th Cir. 2006). Similarly, relief is available under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(1), “when the judge has made a substantive mistake of law or fact in the final judgment or order. Penney v. United States, 870 F.3d 459, 461 (6th Cir. 2017), quoting United States v. Reyes, 307 F.3d 451, 455 (6th Cir. 2002).[1]

         C. Analysis and Conclusion

         Hunter raises several claims of error, each of which will be addressed, in turn, below.

         1. Prima facie case under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act Hunter maintains that the four-part test relied on by the Court, and as advocated by GM, for establishing a prima facie case of sex discrimination does not apply to her claim for sex discrimination under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. That test, which applies when a plaintiff does not provide direct evidence of discrimination under Title VII, requires a plaintiff to show that: (1) she belongs to a protected class, (2) she suffered an adverse employment action, (3) she was qualified for the position, and (4) that the job was given to a person outside the protected class or that she was treated differently than a similarly situated, nonprotected employee. Humenny v. Genex Corp., 390 F.3d 901, 906 (6th Cir. 2007) Abdulnour v. Campbell Soup Supply Co., 502 F.3d 496, 501-02 (6th Cir. 2007); Lyons v. Metropolitan Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., 416 Fed.Appx. 483 (6th Cir. 2011). Rather, Hunter maintains that, under state law, the fourth element merely requires a plaintiff to show that “(4) she was discharged under circumstances that give rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination.” Lytle v. Malady, 458 Mich. 153, 173 (1998).

         Hunter overstates the differences between the state and federal standards. In Lytle, as the Michigan Supreme Court itself observed, its four-part test was simply an adaptation of the McDonnell-Douglas framework. Id. n. 19. Notably, Lytle cites to Town v. Michigan Bell Tel. Co., 455 Mich. 688, 695 (1997) for the elements and the Town court stated:

[m]any courts, including this one, have used the prima facie test articulated by the United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green as a framework for evaluating age-discrimination claims. Originally applied to cases of race discrimination, the test has been modified to accommodate cases of age and sex discrimination.
The modified McDonnell Douglas prima facie approach requires an employee to show that the employee was (1) a member of a protected class, (2) subject to an adverse employment action, (3) qualified for the position, and that (4) others, similarly situated and outside the protected class, were unaffected by the employer's adverse conduct.

Id. (footnotes omitted). Michigan courts have treated the fourth prong of the primafacie case under Elliott-Larsen the same as federal courts do for purposes of Title VII, requiring plaintiffs to provide evidence of appropriate comparators. See e.g., Coleman-Nichols v. Tixon Corp., 203 Mich.App. 645, 651 (1994) (Under the disparate treatment theory, a plaintiff must show that she was a member of a protected class, and that, for the same or similar conduct, she was treated differently than a man.). Moreover, Hunter does not explain how the language from Lytle would change the Court's analysis or the result. As explained in detail below, Hunter still does not provide sufficient evidence of appropriate comparators. Thus, ...


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