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Washington v. General Motors Corp.

January 30, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra S. Beckwith, Chief Judge United States District Court


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Doc. no 8. Plaintiff opposes the motion. Doc. no. 14. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is DENIED.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Al Washington brings this employment discrimination class action against Defendants General Motors Corporation ("GM") and GM employees Larry Speicher and Roy Pikus. Plaintiff brings claims for failure to promote and disparate treatment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981; race discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. and Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.99; failure to promote on account of age pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.99; intentional infliction of emotional distress in violation of Ohio common law; and retaliation based on race and wrongful and discriminatory termination in violation of § 1981, Title VII, and Ohio Rev. Code §§ 4112.01(A), 4112.14, and 4112.99. Jurisdiction is premised on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. Plaintiff also invokes the Court's supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims. Plaintiff avers that venue for this action is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because Defendant is doing business in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred in Cincinnati while Plaintiff worked or resided here.

II. Background

Plaintiff makes the following allegations in the complaint: GM is a Delaware corporation whose corporate headquarters and principal place of business are located in Detroit, Michigan. GM has manufacturing facilities in 32 countries. Plaintiff is an African-American who is 52 years-old and a resident of Cincinnati. He began to work for GM in 1978. Defendants Speicher and Pikus are white and are residents of Naperville, Illinois. They have worked primarily in Naperville at all relevant times.

Plaintiff's first job with GM was a Level 5 position in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was twice promoted and achieved a Level 7 employee status. In November of 1989, Plaintiff was transferred to Cincinnati as a Level 7 employee and was named Zone Fleet Manager (a position now known as Fleet Account Executive or "FAE") for the Pontiac Division. The vast majority of FAE's had an employee status of Level 8. Beginning in 1989, Plaintiff was assigned the job duties of a Level 8 FAE. Although for more than 16 years he "exceeded the job performance of a Level 8 FAE, winning virtually every GM Fleet Division award possible," not once during these 16 years was Plaintiff promoted to Level 8. This failure to promote Plaintiff was the result of a pervasive and systemic pattern of racial discrimination within GM.

In 1994, during frequent conversations in 1996 between Plaintiff and his direct supervisor, and in 2000, Plaintiff was assured in response to inquiries about not being promoted that a level increase was coming if Plaintiff would only continue to work hard, be patient, and wait. In 2000 or thereafter, when Plaintiff spoke with the Director of Fleet Operations and his successor about failing to be promoted to Level 8 status, he was told that all FAE's would be given Level 8 status.

In 1998, a white FAE who Plaintiff had been assigned to replace on some larger accounts because of the FAE's poor communication and customer relation skills was promoted from Level 7 to Level 8. In 1999, although Plaintiff scored higher than all FAE's across the nation on a product test administered at a national training event, he was not promoted to Level 8. In 2001, Plaintiff was given an award as the FAE who earned the highest percentage of new business in the North Central Region, but he was not promoted to Level 8.

When all FAE's were required to be tested in order to retain their positions in connection with a corporate consolidation in 2000, Plaintiff was not allowed to take the Level 8 job test, although the vast majority of the other FAE's were Level 8 employees, Plaintiff was already performing all the duties of a Level 8 FAE, all of the Level 8 FAE's were white, and Plaintiff had passed his Level 7 test and assessment of skills with ease.

In 2002, four new white employees were hired from outside GM, none of whom had either GM or FAE experience, and each of them was immediately given Level 8 job duties.

In 2002, Plaintiff was made the only FAE in the Cincinnati Region. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Pikus and senior management at GM hatched a scheme to take accounts from Plaintiff. The regions were arbitrarily realigned, removing portions from Plaintiff's region, giving him a much smaller base, and dramatically reducing the number of accounts for which he was responsible. Defendant Pikus then told Plaintiff that in order to be considered for a Level 8 promotion, a "new" GM policy required that an FAE have 3,000 annual sales in his accounts. Although Plaintiff had significantly more than 3,000 annual sales in his accounts prior to the realignment, he had less than that amount after the realignment through no fault of his own. This decision to take accounts from Plaintiff and then announce a new unwritten policy is an example of the pervasive pattern and practice of race discrimination at GM.

In 2003, Plaintiff had another strong year as an FAE and received numerous letters of congratulations from his supervisors and letters of appreciation from several national companies who were his customers, but still he was not promoted to Level 8. In late 2003, he was given an award as the highest achieving FAE in the North Central Region, the highest award possible for an FAE, but he was never promoted to Level 8.

In 2004, GM used another corporate consolidation as a pretext for continuing its pattern and pretext of race discrimination. During this consolidation, two of Plaintiff's white peers with less experience and none of the accolades Plaintiff had ...

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