7th Circuit Revives Class Action Alleging Anti-Latino Bias at Ford

CHICAGO (CN) – The Seventh Circuit revived a class action against Ford that claims the hiring process at its Chicago plant discriminates against Latino workers.

The Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. (Dave Parker via Wikipedia)

The class action was filed by seven Latino individuals who applied for employment at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant near Harvey, Illinois, but were not hired.

They claim that the chairman of the United Auto Workers union for the Chicago factory, a black man named Alan Millender, favored hiring black applicants over Latino workers because he believed they would be more likely to support him as union leader.

The complaint further alleges that employment applicants are required to take a pre-employment basic skills test that discriminates against Latinos.

This scheme, allegedly supported by unknown Ford employees, resulted in a far fewer percentage of Latino workers at the plant than is representative of the surrounding area.

The complaint does not state what percentage of workers at the plant are Latino, only that it is a “small percentage.” The Latino population in surrounding towns ranges from 15% to 46%.

The seven plaintiffs each filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and received right to sue letters.

Then, a federal judge dismissed their case on the basis that they had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies.

But a three-judge panel of Seventh Circuit reversed that decision Wednesday and reinstated the case.

“Count II describes conduct that is consistent with the conduct described in the charges. Count II alleges a disparate impact upon Hispanic and Latino applicants caused by the skills test,” Seventh Circuit Judge Daniel Manion, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. 

However, the circuit court found that the first count of the complaint was properly dismissed. This count focused on Millender’s alleged race-based conspiracy, includes claims of pre-test discrimination that were not included in the EEOC charges.  

Otherwise, “the plaintiffs’ ‘basic allegations’ regarding the disparity between the racial makeup of

Ford’s workforce and the surrounding area are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss,” Manion said.

Seventh Circuit Judges William Bauer, appointed by President Gerald Ford, and Michael Brennan, appointed by President Donald Trump, also served on the panel.

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