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Black Manager at GM Plant Fails to Show Race Prompted His Firing

July 6, 2022, 4:11 PM

A Black man who said race discrimination spurred General Motors LLC’s decision to fire him from his job as a quality business manager at its Bowling Green, Ky., Corvette plant failed to establish a triable claim, a federal judge ruled.

Derrick Myles had worked for GM for more than eight years when he was terminated in 2018. That came after the company investigated an anonymous complaint about Myles and others using inappropriate language in the workplace and viewing nude photographs on their company-issued cell phones, the US District Court for the Western District of Kentucky said.

A review of Myles’ phone didn’t turn up any nude photos, but text messages he exchanged with a contract employee showed Myles wrongly credited the worker for time he didn’t actually work, causing GM to overpay the contractor by more than $4,000, the court said.

That was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation supporting GM’s decision to fire Myles, the court said. And it shifted the burden to Myles to raise an issue of fact on whether the company’s explanation was a pretext for discrimination under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, the court said.

Myles failed to meet that burden by pointing to other employees outside his protected class who allegedly were treated more favorably than he was, Judge Greg N. Stivers said Tuesday.

Two of the men Myles pointed to had a different supervisor, so they weren’t comparable to him “in all respects,” the judge said. Myles also lacked personal knowledge of the circumstances of their workplace transgressions and instead offered only hearsay evidence.

A third man Myles pointed to wasn’t similarly situated because he held a different job than Myles and was fired for a pattern of misconduct that was different from Myles’ time entry issues, the court said.

The lone race-based remarks Myles identified couldn’t show pretext because it was made by individuals who had no role in his firing, the court said.

Myles’ attempt to create an inference of pretext based on “the anonymous complaint leading to the discovery of” his time entry discrepancies was founded on “mere conjecture,” Stivers said.

The lack of “any connection whatsoever” between the lone race-based comments and Myles’ firing meant he also couldn’t alternatively prove race discrimination under the mixed-motive theory, the judge said.

Matthew J. Baker of Bowling Green represented Myles. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC represented GM.

The case is Myles v. Gen. Motors, LLC, 2022 BL 231888, W.D. Ky., No. 1:18-cv-00172, 7/5/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com