Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Peeples v. City of Detroit

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 1, 2018

Erick Peeples; Perry Anderson; Vincent Fields; Arnold Freeman; Ralph Glenn, Jr.; Jamal Jennings; Lee Jones; Anthony McCloud; Exander Poe; David Rivera; Samuel Shack, Plaintiffs-Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
v.
City of Detroit, Michigan, Law Department; International Association of Firefighters Local 344, Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

          Argued: April 25, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:13-cv-13858-Sean F. Cox, District Judge.

         ARGUED

          Bruce B. Elfvin, ELFVIN, KLINGSHIRN, ROYER & TORCH, LLC, Independence, Ohio, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

          Jason T. McFarlane, CITY OF DETROIT, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant City of Detroit.

          Christopher P. Legghio, LEGGHIO & ISRAEL, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant International Association of Firefighters.

          James M. Tucker, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

         ON BRIEF:

          Bruce B. Elfvin, ELFVIN, KLINGSHIRN, ROYER & TORCH, LLC, Independence, Ohio, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.

          Jason T. McFarlane, CITY OF DETROIT, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant City of Detroit.

          Christopher P. Legghio, Megan B. Boelstler, LEGGHIO & ISRAEL, P.C., Royal Oak, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant International Association of Firefighters.

          James M. Tucker, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

          Before: COLE, Chief Judge; GUY and DONALD, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          BERNICE BOUIE DONALD, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiffs-Appellants are eleven minority firefighters who were laid off by the City of Detroit ("City") in August 2012 as part of a reduction in force ("RIF"). Plaintiffs brought suit against the City and their union, the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, Local 344, IAFF, AFL-CIO ("DFFA"), alleging that they were laid off in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to both the City and the DFFA as to Plaintiffs' claims. The court concluded that as against the City, only one Plaintiff had exhausted his administrative remedies to pursue a Title VII claim, but that even proceeding to the merits, Plaintiffs failed to present direct evidence or to establish a prima facie case under the circumstantial evidence approach, which includes a heightened burden in a RIF. As to the DFFA, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs could not establish that the DFFA breached its duty of fair representation to the Plaintiffs, which the court held Plaintiffs must do to proceed with a Title VII claim against a union. Finally, the district court denied the DFFA's motion for attorney fees and costs. Plaintiffs appeal both rulings. The DFFA cross-appeals the district court's denial of its motion for attorney fees and costs.

         For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part the district court's judgment and REMAND for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I.

         On July 18, 2012, the City of Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection. Prior to the filing, on July 2, 2012 the City notified agencies that the City would initiate RIF activities across different agencies, with a goal to lose 2, 227 employees through various means, including layoffs. The Detroit Fire Department ("DFD") received notification on June 18, 2012, that the deadline for implementation of layoffs for the July 1, 2012 fiscal year was passing that day, and as of July 2, 2012, the DFD would not be in compliance with its 2012-2013 fiscal budget. Two days later, the City notified the DFFA by letter that layoff notices would be issued in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between the parties and attached a matrix with the number of reductions to be made, detailed by position. According to this initial matrix, twenty-two firefighters would be laid off.

         To effectuate the RIF, Human Resources Officer Roger Williams applied Human Resources Rule 10, which indicated that the RIF should be based on total city seniority, determined by total number of years as a city employee. Plaintiffs were not included in the group to be laid off. According to Williams, after he created the RIF matrix, the DFFA contested the City's methodology and argued that departmental seniority should apply to layoffs, rather than total city seniority. On July 30, 2012, the DFFA provided the City with lists by departmental seniority. Plaintiffs were included in this list. The next day, the DFFA filed Grievance #17-12, a class action grievance alleging that the City's proposed RIF violated the parties' CBA. On August 10, 2012, the City proceeded with the RIF by departmental seniority, as urged by the DFFA, and laid off twenty-seven firefighters, including ten of the Plaintiffs. Plaintiff Anthony McCloud was demoted from firefighter to fireboat deckhand.

         In September 2012, the DFFA changed its position and agreed that total city seniority was in fact the proper method for layoffs under the CBA. Plaintiffs were recalled to work on October 29, 2012. Their layoff had lasted eighty days. In March 2013, the DFFA and the City finalized a settlement, which provided Plaintiffs with backpay, overtime pay, and medical expenses.

         The parties agree that in May 2013, four of the Plaintiffs, David Rivera, Erick Peeples, Anthony McCloud, and Perry Anderson, timely filed discrimination charges against the City, as they were filed within 300 days of their layoff on August 10, 2012.[1] Rivera received a right to sue letter against the City on June 11, 2013.[2] Plaintiffs filed similar charges against the DFFA.[3]

         Plaintiffs filed the first amended complaint ("the complaint") on May 11, 2015.[4] The complaint alleged one count for disparate-treatment race discrimination in violation of Title VII against the City and the DFFA. The City moved for summary judgment on June 6, 2016, arguing that Plaintiffs could not establish a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII. More specifically, the City argued that the Plaintiffs, other than Rivera, could not show they were entitled to bring an action under Title VII because they had either not filed charges timely or had not received right to sue letters. The City also argued that Plaintiffs could not establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination because they could produce neither direct evidence nor circumstantial evidence that they were targeted for layoffs for impermissible reasons.

         The DFFA also moved for summary judgment on June 6, 2016, arguing that Plaintiffs' claim failed because the DFFA did not breach its duty of fair representation to the Plaintiffs, which it urged is "an essential component of a Title VII race discrimination claim against a union." The DFFA also argued that Plaintiffs could not prove damages given that they had been reinstated and made whole, and neither compensatory nor punitive damages were available as a matter of law. Finally, the DFFA argued that it should be awarded attorney fees and costs because Plaintiffs' claims were unmeritorious.

         On January 26, 2017, the district court granted summary judgment to both Defendants on Plaintiffs' claims, but denied the DFFA's motion for attorney fees and costs, which the court construed as a request for sanctions under Rule 11.[5] As to the City, the district court held that only one Plaintiff's claim could proceed for failure to properly exhaust administrative remedies, but that it failed on the merits regardless. In its first finding, the district court contended with almost no argument from Plaintiffs. The City argued that only one Plaintiff, Rivera, was entitled to bring his Title VII claim, because only he had timely filed his EEOC charge and received a right to sue letter. Plaintiffs did not respond to this argument. The district court reviewed the record and concluded that only Rivera had properly exhausted his administrative remedies before bringing his Title VII claim. The City next argued that the "single filing rule" should not be applied to allow Plaintiffs who had not exhausted their administrative remedies to "piggyback" on Rivera's claim, because Rivera alleged discrimination based on national origin, not race, and the facts of his claim were distinguishable from the other Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' response to the argument consisted of one word:

1. Does the "single-filer" rule under Title VII apply, so that each Plaintiff demonstrate [sic] that he is entitled to bring ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.