On April 16, 2019, the Sixth Circuit released its opinion in Redlin v Grosse Pointe Pub Sch Sys, ___ F3d ___, Case No. 18‑1641 (CA 6, 2019). The case involved an assistant principal who alleged that the Defendant school district discriminated against her on the basis of gender and retaliated against her on the basis of gender and her FMLA leave. The trial court previously granted summary disposition to the school district entirely, potentially dismissing the case. However, on appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court, permitting the Plaintiff to proceed on her gender claims.
Specifically, the Plaintiff highlighted that she had been subjected to various adverse employment actions – a “minimally effective” evaluation, transfer to a less prestigious position, and other discipline – based on alleged misconduct. The Sixth Circuit emphasized that she was arguably treated differently from a male assistant principal who had engaged in similar conduct. The school district highlighted that the male assistant principal had engaged in fewer acts of misconduct, but the court discarded the argument. It found that the two assistant principals were adequately similarly‑situated and that, based on the differing treatment, a reasonable jury could find the school district had engaged in discrimination and retaliation on the basis of gender.
The Sixth Circuit upheld dismissal of the Plaintiff’s FMLA retaliation claim, however. It reasoned that the alleged adverse employment actions preceded the Plaintiff’s FMLA leave. Thus, they could not be linked to the leave. While the Plaintiff argued that an alleged adverse employment action occurred after the FMLA leave, the court ruled the incident was a communication misunderstanding and no negative effects actually existed. Consequently, the Plaintiff could not show an adverse employment action transpired, and the Sixth Circuit dismissed that portion of the Plaintiff’s legal action. The court remanded the remaining counts to the trial court for further proceedings.
Lusk Albertson recommends the case to readers who would like to read the current black letter law (i.e. the rules, tests, and legal standards) applicable in Title VII and ELCRA gender discrimination and retaliation claims.