- McWherter v City of Ann Arbor
- Ehlert v City of Dearborn
- Peña v Ingham County Road Commission
- Cremonte v Michigan State Police
- John and Jane Does v Wayne County
Plaintiff Thomas Diaz is a Puerto-Rican Lieutenant with the Inkster Police Department. When the Inkster Police Department Chief retired Diaz applied for and was denied the chief's position in favor of an African-American. Diaz later applied for commander and deputy chief positions. He was similarly rejected in favor of an African-American candidate.
Diaz brought suit for race discrimination under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, 42 USC §1981 and 42 USC §1983. He also asserted a retaliation claim based on the protected activity of filing the lawsuit.
Many current and former members of the department testified in the six day trial. One individual was the successful candidate for both the commander and later the deputy chief positions. He testified during trial that he had a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University. He also testified that he misrepresented his academic program on his resume.
Suspecting that the successful candidate had no degree whatsoever from Western Michigan University, Plaintiff's paralegal, Maureen Proffitt, served a subpoena on the WMU general counsel's office and obtained an immediate response that the successful candidate had never even attended Western Michigan University. The city then stipulated that its deputy chief had no such degree and never attended Western Michigan University.
The jury returned a verdict on all discrimination counts of $253,000, including $45,000 in back-pay, $68,000 in non-economic damages and $140,000 in future economic damages. The jury found that Plaintiff had proved his 42 USC §1983 case by establishing that the city had a policy and practice of granting preferences to African-Americans in promotion. The jury found no retaliation based on the filing of the lawsuit.
The court entered judgment and awarded attorney fees of approximately $125,000 and prejudgment interest from the date of the filing of the complaint in the approximate amount of $45,000. After the City appealed, the case settled for a confidential amount.
This is the first reverse discrimination class action lawsuit against a private corporation. The suit challenged Ford Motor Company's employee evaluation system that required managers to rank their subordinates as A, B or C players. The A's represented the top 10% of the performers; the B's represented the middle 80% of the employees; and the C players were considered to be in the lowest top 10% regarding performance. The consequences of receiving a C designation was that an employee would receive no raise, no bonus and a ticket out of the company if they received a C two years in a row.
We asserted that Ford Motor Company instituted the evaluation system to target older white males for termination so that they could increase the number of minorities and females in its workforce. The suit featured videotaped statements by Ford's CEO Jack Nasser that "we have too many middle-aged white Anglo-Saxon males and that needs to change," and from Vice President Richard Perry Jones that "we have a monoculture of old, white males and that needs to change." The suit also featured statistical evidence demonstrating that older and male employees were much more likely to be targeted for a C rating than younger and female employees.
Six months after we initiated suit, Ford Motor Company scrapped its ABC evaluation system. Shortly after that the case settled for $10,500,000.00. As part of the settlement Ford agreed to contribute $110,000.00 toward the costs incurred by the Plaintiffs. For further information on this case type in "James Fett" and "Ford" into your search engine and you will uncover many media accounts of the case.
McWherter v City of Ann Arbor
This was the first sexual harassment case aired on Court TV. We recovered $440,000.00 for Traffic Court Referee, Lois McWherter, in her sexual harassment and retaliation claims against the City, her coworker and her supervisor.
After the verdict, Mrs. McWherter's supervisor left the City's employ and Lois continued for a number of years as a referee in Traffic Court. The city accommodated her request for flex-time so that she could attend physician's assistant school and she now works for a local hospital full time as a Physician's Assistant.
Ehlert v City of Dearborn
Karen Ehlert filed an internal sexual harassment complaint against a coworker. The Chief of Police attempted to dissuade Karen from proceeding with the complaint. When she refused, the Chief demeaned her to her supervisors with vulgar sexist slurs. Karen's superiors reported the slurs to Karen and to her union. The Chief also retaliated against Karen and colleagues that were supportive of her in her sexual harassment complaint. Finally, the Chief refused to rectify a tainted promotional exam which deprived Karen of promotion from Sergeant to Lieutenant. Some even think the Chief rigged the test but we were never able to prove it.
As a result of this case, the City of Dearborn fired the Police Chief and entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Karen. Karen, because of her excellent scores in the Civil Service promotional process, obtained a promotion to Lieutenant. We had to file suit again in 2007 against the Dearborn Police Department because it refused to promote Karen to commander. The case settled for a confidential amount.
Peña v Ingham County Road Commission
Joe Peña was a laborer with the Ingham County Road Commission. For thirteen years he was forced to endure despicable racial slurs and a hostile work environment. We brought a race and national origin claim on his behalf. Joe's boss told him point blank "there are people here that don't want Mexicans, blacks or women working here. You've got to live with it."
Soon after we filed suit, the Road Commission charged Joe with filing a fraudulent workers compensation claim 4 1/2 years before the lawsuit was filed. Joe's supervisors attempted at every turn to alienate his coworkers from him. One even falsely told his coworkers at the morning meeting that Joe filed a sexual harassment complaint against all of the employees.
In June 2000, the jury returned a verdict of $1,300,000.00 for emotional distress. Shortly after the verdict, the Road Commission falsely charged Joe and one of his witnesses with sexual harassment. After we again intervened, the Road Commission cleared Joe and his friend of wrongdoing. We had to sue the Road Commission again because of their continuing retaliation. The case settled for a confidential amount in 2003 after the Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict.
Cremonte v Michigan State Police
In this reverse discrimination case, we challenged the Michigan State Police double standard which required white males seeking promotion to Sergeant to score 92 or above on the Sergeant's Exam while requiring minorities and females to score only 73 and above. We also challenged the State Police practice of using race and gender to determine which eligible troopers would be promoted to Sergeant.
The case was tried in February, 1996 and resulted in a judgment of over $1.1 million dollars. The Court also enjoined the State Police from using race or gender in any of its employment practices.
Trooper Cremonte eventually received a promotion to Detective Sergeant and continues to work at the Brighton, Michigan State Police Post.
In addition to Sergeant Cremonte's case, we also represented State Troopers in six other cases which resulted in settlements or judgments totaling over $1.5 million.
John and Jane Does v Wayne County
We have successfully sued Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility for retaliating against their employees who report criminal sexual abuse of the juveniles or that oppose racial discrimination against themselves or other coworkers. All of the cases were settled prior to trial and totaled more than $1,000,000.00. Information regarding these cases can be found by visiting the websites of The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press.
Tisdale & Hughes v United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices, Local 704
Mr. Fett brought a race discrimination suit on behalf of African-American plaintiffs Donald C. Tisdale and Larron V. Hughes against their local union because its hiring hall would not refer them to employers for sprinkler fitter jobs.
Mr. Fett filed the case in Wayne County Circuit Court and the union, hoping to avoid the more favorable juries in the state courts, removed the case to the Federal District Court in Detroit. The District Court agreed with the local union that the case was properly removed to federal court. The District Court reasoned that a federal court should decide the case because the state race discrimination claim implicated federal labor law and federal courts are more expert in deciding federal claims.
Mr. Fett appealed the District Court decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court and sent the case back to Wayne County Circuit Court.
The case is significant because it affirmed the right of discrimination claimants to have their state law claims heard in state court rather than in the more conservative federal courts. Because of this decision, employers have much fewer opportunities to remove cases to federal court based on the allegation that the state law claim implicated federal labor law.
Once the case was remanded to Wayne County Circuit Court it settled for an amount which cannot be disclosed because of a confidentiality agreement.