GM Asks Court to Toss |Religious Leave Case

     DALLAS (CN) – General Motors workers cannot sue as a class for unpaid religious leave because they are individually of different religions, the company said in a motion filed Tuesday.
     The filing is the latest chapter in a class action filed against the automotive giant in Fort Worth Federal Court in March.
     In their complaint, lead plaintiffs James Robinson III and Chris Scruggs, electricians at General Motors’ Arlington, Texas plant, claim that starting in 2013, the company stopped allowing unpaid days off to observe religious holidays.
     “This denial occurs despite the availability of volunteer replacements and less than de minimus cost to General Motors,” the complaint stated. “The actions of General Motors violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
     The motion General Motors filed Tuesday argues the plaintiffs “rest on unavoidable individualized” claims.
     “Plaintiffs’ religious-discrimination claims necessarily rely on discrete evaluations of each leave request and GM’s specific responses thereto, and thus they do not lend themselves to a class action,” the 20-page motion states. “Furthermore, Plaintiffs seek lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages – all of which require individual-specific facts and analysis. Because these individualized issues commonly arise in Title VII cases, courts have routinely held that discrimination cases such as plaintiffs’ do not qualify for class relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.”
     The company says membership in the proposed class “is not based on objective criteria” but on an individual “merits determination” that failed to meet Rule 23.
     It also argues the plaintiffs have failed to meet the “significant burden of articulating a common question” whose determination will resolve a central issue to the validity of each claim “in one stroke.”
     “The face of the complaint demonstrates that plaintiffs have not met this burden, and no amount of discovery or fishing for such commonality will cure this defect,” the motion states. “The specific allegations of Robinson and Scruggs highlight the lack of commonality in plaintiffs’ proposed class. Robinson and Scruggs are members of different religions, likely with different holy days. Accordingly, the court will have to engage in individualized analyses just to determine whether GM properly accommodated Robinson’s and Scruggs’ divergent unpaid-leave requests.”
     GM says a class action is “not a superior method” for adjudicating the case, that individual class members have a “strong incentive” to file their own lawsuits.
     Robinson and Scruggs declined to comment Thursday on General Motors’ motion to dismiss.
     “We plan to file our motion for class certification soon,” said Dallas attorney Eric Dama.

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