By Staff Report
Jun. 5, 2013
One of the key analyses in any discrimination lawsuit is whether the plaintiff is “similarly situated” to those whom he or she claims the employer treated more favorably. If the plaintiff can establish disparate treatment of those “similarly situated,” he or she can make out a prima facie case and proceed to the discrimination bonus round to prove that the employer’s legitimate non-discriminatory reason was a pretext. Conversely, a failure to prove “similarly situated” dooms a claim to the summary judgment scrapheap.
Louzon v. Ford Motor Co. (6/4/13) [pdf] illustrates the important role a determination of “similarly situated” plays in discrimination cases.
Moien Louzon, a product engineer at Ford, took an approved leave of absence to visit family in Gaza. While abroad, Israel closed its borders, stranding Louzon in Gaza. Ford initially extended his leave of absence, but by the time the State Department could evacuate him, the extension had expired and Ford had terminated him.
In Louzon’s subsequent national-origin discrimination lawsuit, Ford filed a motion in limine, which sought to preclude Louzon from offering at trial any evidence of comparable employees on the basis that none were similarly situated as a matter of law. The district court granted Ford’s motion and, on its own accord, granted summary judgment to Ford and dismissed Louzon’s case.
The appellate opinion dealt with two issues—one procedural and one substantive.
Substantively, the court took up the issue of whether the trial court correctly determined that there did not exist any comparable employees similarly situated to Louzon. The court was concerned over the district court’s reliance on an outdated rule that mandated that comparative employees share the same supervisor. Instead, the 6th Circuit clarified that in determining whether employees are similarly situated, a court must “make an independent determination as to the relevancy of a particular aspect of the plaintiff’s employment status and that of the non-protected employee.” Merely examining whether there exists a shared supervisor is too narrow of a standard.
“Similarly situated” lies in the eyes of the beholder. How a court frames who is, and who is not, “similarly situated” can be dispositive of the issue of discrimination. For this reason, it is wise to examine any potential similarly situated employees for similar or dissimilar treatment under like circumstances before taking action against a protected employee.
We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.
ComplianceMinimum Wage by State in 2022 – All You Need to Know
Summary The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25, but the rate is higher in 30 states, along with Washing...
federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance
LegalCalifornia’s push for a 32-hour workweek explained, and how to prepare
Summary: California is considering a 32-hour workweek bill for businesses with over 500 staff 4 day wee...
32 hour workweek, 4 day workweek, california, legislature, overtime
LegalA business owner’s guide to restaurant tipping law
Business owners in the restaurant industry are in a unique position when it comes to employee tips. As ...
restaurants, tip laws, tipping