Sixth Circuit reinstates discrimination claim against Ford Motor; deems motion in limine procedure was misused to summarily dismiss claim.
Moien Louzon sought his supervisors' permission to take a four-week leave of absence to visit his mother in Gaza. A product engineer, Louzon's request was granted and he left for Gaza with his family in the summer of 2007. While Louzon was there, Israel closed the Gaza borders and U.S. government assistance was necessary for American nationals to leave the country. Although Ford granted Louzon an extension of his leave while he was attempting to come home, before the final extension expired, his employment was terminated for unexcused absence.
Louzon filed suit, and uncovered evidence that seven persons in similar situations were not terminated by Ford Motor. Ford persuaded the judge to rule that evidence of these seven "comparators" (i.e., persons similarly situated) could not be admitted into evidence to support Louzon's claim. The judge ruled that only persons subject to the same supervisor's authority could be compared in gauging discrimination, and that in any event, Ford had an "automatic" policy of discharge that applied to Louzon.
The Court of Appeals rejected this reasoning and reversed the lower court. It pointed out that sharing the same supervisor is only one factor to be considered in evaluating the comparable treatment of similarly-situated employees, and that a significant credibility issue had been raised regarding Ford's supposed "automatic termination" policy. It reinstated the case and instructed the trial judge to leave factual questions for detrmination by the jury.