Saunders v. Ford Motor Co., No. 17-5277 (6th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Working at Ford’s Twin Cities Plant in 2001, Saunders’s right arm got caught in a machine, causing him to lose almost all use of that arm. Saunders received workers’ compensation. He returned to work with restrictions that prohibited heavy lifting, engaging in repetitive motions, or using his right arm. Ford assigned him to temporary jobs, then to an airbag-installation job, but placed him on “no-work-available” (NWA) status when he developed carpal-tunnel syndrome. Ford assigned Saunders to a torque-inspector job, where Saunders worked for eight years. Ford transferred Saunders to Louisville in 2012, after Twin Cities closed. The Plant, in flux as dozens of Ford plants closed, allowed Saunders to continue working as an inspector for another year, although he lacked the seniority for the position there. After the Plant integrated its new workers, it reopened jobs to the normal bid process. A senior worker displaced Saunders, who was placed in short-term jobs, had periods of medical leave, and was on NWA status. Saunders got a permanent assignment in 2014, which he retains. Before that placement, Saunders filed grievances, then filed suit (Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185), alleging that Ford breached its collective bargaining unit by placing him on NWA status, retaliated after he reopened his workers’ compensation claim, and that his union failed to fully pursue his grievances. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford. Ford had a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for placing Saunders on NWA status that no reasonable juror could conclude was pretextual. Breach of the duty of fair representation is not established merely by proof that the underlying grievance was meritorious.