Williams, McMiller, Harris, Spinkston, Townsend, Dale, & Thomas v. Ford Motor Co.

Decision Date18 December 1998
Docket NumberNos. 97-2049,s. 97-2049
Citation187 F.3d 533
Parties(6th Cir. 1999) Michael E. Williams; Flora Lynn McMiller; Keith Arnett Harris; Almesha Spinkston; Gerrol Gerard Townsend (97-2049); Alan Dale; Bryan Thomas (98-1256), Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Ford Motor Company, Defendant-Appellee. ; 98-1256 Argued:
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit; Nos. 95-71203; 95-76125--Bernard A. Friedman, District Judge

[Copyrighted Material Omitted] William H. Bartle, MURRAY & MURRAY, Sandusky, Ohio, for Appellants.

John H. Beisner, William J. Stuckwisch, Brian D. Boyle, O'MELVENY & MYERS, Washington, D.C., George L. Forbes, Forbes, Forbes & Associates, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: KENNEDY and BATCHELDER, Circuit Judges; WISEMAN, District Judge*.

OPINION

ALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge.

I.
A. Procedural Background

This case is one of many employment discrimination cases in multidistrict litigation against Ford Motor Co. The complaint in the case before us here (hereinafter "Williams"), is a state-law employment discrimination class action claiming violations of Ohio Revised Code 4112.02, which was originally filed by Michael Williams, Flora McMiller, Keith Harris, Almesha Spinkston, and Gerrol Townsend in Common Pleas Court in Lorain County, Ohio, and removed on diversity grounds to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. After Ford moved to consolidate the case with three others, Jones v. Ford Motor Co., Rose v. Ford Motor Co., and Glinton v. Ford Motor Credit Co., the multidistrict panel transferred all four of the cases to the Eastern District of Michigan. The multidistrict panel did not, however, consolidate the cases.

Shortly after the Williams plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, Alan Dale and Bryan Thomas filed a tag-along action ("Dale"), claiming that "Ford Motor Company discriminates on the basis of race against Afro-American applicants for unskilled hourly employment through the use of its [pre-employment] test," in violation of Ohio Revised Code 4112.02. The district court entered an order in Williams, certifying a class consisting of "all African American applicants for unskilled hourly employment with Ford from 1989 to the present who scored low on the unskilled pre-employment test and who were thereby excluded from unskilled employment with Ford within the state of Ohio." In its order certifying the class, the court noted that plaintiff Harris did not qualify as a class member because he had scored a "medium" on the test,1 and that the plaintiffs had conceded that three others of the named plaintiffs did not qualify as class members, two having never taken the test at all and one having scored a "medium." The court held, however, that the plaintiffs in Dale are adequate class representatives. In that same order, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to consolidate the case with Jones v. Ford Motor Co., Rose v. Ford Motor Co., and Glinton v. Ford Motor Credit Co. because "the nature of Williams is clearly different from [the other three cases]."

Ford filed a motion for summary judgment "on each and every claim asserted in plaintiff's Complaint," which the district court granted in its entirety, dismissing the action. The court also granted Ford's unopposed motion for judgment in the Dale tag-along action since the Dale plaintiffs were members of the Williams class. Dale and Williams were consolidated for this appeal.

B. Factual Background

Ford operates seven plants in Ohio where motor vehicles and/or their component parts are manufactured and/or assembled. Each plant employs unskilled hourly workers. Ford began using a pre-employment test referred to as the Hourly Selection System Test Battery ("HSSTB") around 1989 to screen applicants for the unskilled hourly positions. Candidates receiving a "low" score are not allowed to proceed in the application process though these applicants may retest, except at Ford's Sandusky plant. The HSSTB measures five areas: reading comprehension, arithmetic, parts assembly, visual speed and accuracy, and precision/manual dexterity. The manual dexterity test may be measured by an apparatus-based test or a paper and pencil test requiring precise finger/hand movement. A score above the 50th percentile on the HSSTB is classified as "high;" a score between the 25th and 50th percentile is classified as "medium." The "low" scoring candidates, who may not proceed in the application process, are those who score below the 25th percentile.

Prior to implementation of the HSSTB, Ford utilized referrals from the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services ("OBES"); OBES administered a General Aptitude Test Battery ("GATB") to prospective candidates. When OBES began to restrict the use of GATB in late 1988, Ford decided to develop its own test. In early 1989, Ford hired Personnel Designs, Inc., which became HRStrategies, Inc. and now operates as a division of Aon Consulting (hereinafter referred to as "HR"2), to develop an interim and long-term selection test for hourly production employees. Because Ford's hourly production employees rotate among assignments and applicants do not apply for positions within specific job classifications, Ford instructed HR to develop a single test battery for all hourly production employees at its facilities. After visiting over a dozen representative Ford facilities to collect information on the content of the Ford hourly jobs, HR developed an interim test battery that was administered in June 1989 at the Lorain and Ohio Assembly Plants. The final test battery, which differed in a number of respects from the interim test,3 was implemented in late 1989 as a component of Ford's hourly hiring process.

In developing the final HSSTB, HR conducted an extensive job analysis to identify the knowledge, skill and ability requirements of Ford hourly production jobs. From December 1989 through May 1990, Ford supervisors participated in job analysis inventories; the supervisors then rated each job requirement and job ability identified in the inventories on its importance to the job category. HR assessed the reliability of the ratings and analyzed the data to identify key job requirements and abilities, and on the basis of the analysis, developed specific tests to measure the skills necessary to perform the job requirements that had been rated as "important" by the experts across all the job categories.

In 1993, Ford directed HR to conduct a criterion-related study, that is a statistical analysis of the relationship between performance on the test and performance on the job. A sample of 105 hourly employees were evaluated on their job performance by 46 selected supervisors; HR analyzed the relationship between the employees' HSSTB scores (pre-employment) and their job performance ratings. HR reported "criterion-related validity analyses with data collected to date show a strong pattern of significant correlations between the tests and performance ratings made by supervisors." Both the initial study and a supplemental study demonstrated a correlation of .30 between the test battery score and overall job performance rating; the supplemental study concluded that "[t]he obtained validity (correlation) coefficient of .30 is both statistically and practically significant and is evidence of the validity and appropriateness of the Ford Hourly Selection Battery for selecting candidates for further consideration for hourly production jobs at Ford Motor Company."

HR also conducted a validity generalization study called "meta-analysis" in which HR examined literature on sixty-one studies to determine whether similar tests used by other employers predicted employee performance in similar jobs. The meta-analytical study was conducted from January 1995 to April 1995.

Ford's expert, Dr. Wayne Cascio, reviewed and analyzed the test development process and HR's studies and found the test "was developed in a manner consistent with sound professional practice" and "the totality of the evidence for the validity of the HSS supports its continued use." By contrast, Dr. Charles Cranny, expert for the plaintiffs, found numerous problems with the test development and validation studies conducted by HR, concluding that the results of the job analysis fail to demonstrate a clear linkage of specific requirements to job duties and the criterion-related evidence from the preliminary study is inadequate to demonstrate the job-relatedness of the HSSTB.

II.
A. Standard of Review

We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment. The proper inquiry on appeal from a grant of summary judgment is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Summary judgment is proper only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, the moving party's evidence "must be viewed in the light most favorable to the [nonmoving] party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). However, if the nonmoving party failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of the case with respect to which the non-movant has the burden, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 322-23 (1986).

B. Analysis

The Williams action was initiated generally pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 4112.02(A)4 which provides:

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice:

(A) For any employer, because of the race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, age, or...

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