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A disparate treatment discrimination charge filed by rejected Hispanic and Latino job applicants against Ford Motor Co. was reinstated by a federal appeals court in a putative class action lawsuit Wednesday.
Seven Hispanic or Latino individuals had unsuccessfully applied for employment as line workers at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, according to the ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Martin Chaidez et al. v. Ford Motor Co. et al.
The plaintiffs charged that Allen Millender, a black Ford employee who is the chairman of the United Auto Workers Union for the Chicago plant, had engaged in a conspiracy with the staff of the Illinois Department of Employment Security’s Harvey, Illinois, office and unknown Ford employees to ensure the Chicago plant predominantly hired black applicants to the exclusion of Hispanic and Latino applicants.
This was allegedly because Mr. Millender believed black employees would be more likely to support him in his role as a union leader, according to the ruling.
“This resulted in a predominantly black workforce at the plant and a dearth of Hispanic and Latino workers, despite a sizeable minority of Hispanic and Latino people in the surrounding area,” according to the ruling.
After receiving a right to sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the plaintiffs filed suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, charging disparate treatment and disparate impact under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The District Court dismissed both charges on the basis the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, holding their claims were not “like or reasonably related” to the claims asserted in their EEOC charges.
On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit unanimously reinstated the disparate impact charge.
The charge “describes conduct that is consistent with the conduct described” in the EEOC charge, said the ruling.
“It alleges Ford’s pre-employment testing process has created a racially disproportionate workforce and a dearth of Hispanic and Latino worker,” it said.
“Ford may present contrary evidence at the summary judgment stage or at trial to show there is no suspect racial disparity, and the plaintiffs, for their part, will need utilize the discovery process to support their allegations with statistical and comparative evidence,” the ruling said.
“Ford may also defeat the plaintiffs’ claim by demonstrating the pre-employment testing process is ‘job-related and consistent with business necessity,’” said the ruling, in citing an earlier decision.
“But the plaintiffs’ ‘basic allegations’ regarding the disparity between the racial make-up of Ford’s workforce and the surrounding area are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss,” said the ruling, in vacating dismissal of the disparate impact charge and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, James L. Bizzieri of Bizzieri Law Offices LLC in Chicago, said in a statement, “We, as well as our clients, are pleased with this decision!”
Ford said in a statement it “has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are an equal opportunity employer and our hiring decisions are made without regard to race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, gender identity, veteran status or disability status.”
An appellate court held in June that Ford must pay the widow of a delivery driver who died at Ford’s Kansas City assembly plant nearly $80 million in compensatory and aggravating circumstances damages.
Ford Motor Co. must pay the widow of a delivery driver who died at Ford Motor’s Kansas City Assembly Plant nearly $80 million in compensatory and aggravating circumstances damages, an appellate court held Tuesday.