Judge Tosses Religious Claim Against GM | Courthouse News Service
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Judge Tosses Religious Claim Against GM

DALLAS (CN) - Employees cannot sue General Motors for religious leave discrimination as a class because they failed to adequately define class membership, a federal judge ruled.

Lead plaintiffs James Robinson III and Chris Scruggs, electricians at General Motors' Arlington, Texas plant, sued in Fort Worth Federal Court after the company in 2013 stopped allowing unpaid days off for religious holidays.

Robinson is a member of the Tyler Sabbath Fellowship, who worship on Saturdays and other holy days each year. He cannot work or accept pay on those holy days.

Scruggs is a member of the Beth Yeshua Congregation, which also prevents him from working or receiving pay on certain holy days.

They sought an injunction to allow class members to take unpaid leave on holy days, to ask about availability of volunteers to cover for them, and to seek no-cost methods of allowing class members to take religious leave.

They alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. District Judge Terry Means refused to certify the class on Wednesday and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend by Nov. 23.

Means agreed with GM's argument that membership in the purported class lacks clarity and definiteness, as required in Fifth Circuit rulings.

"GM argues that membership in this purported class is not based on objective criteria, but rather a hypothetical - i.e. the possibility that GM employees may seek unpaid religious leave at some time in the future," the 7-page order states. "The court agrees. Although individual class members need not be ascertained prior to certification, the class itself must be ascertainable. Here, the court has no way to ascertain the class under plaintiffs' definition since the requested class includes any GM employee who might request unpaid religious leave in the future."

Means said he would have to "wade through thousands" of individual leave requests and evaluate each circumstance to determine class membership.

Attorneys for Robinson and Scruggs could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

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