Judge allows fired worker single claim against Ford

Termination dispute
At issue: Former Ford plant security chief fights firing.
Status: Federal judge lets one claim stand against company.

The former head of security at Ford Motor Co.'s Chicago assembly plant who was fired after a sexual harassment investigation at the plant can pursue one wrongful termination claim against the company, a federal judge has ruled.

But U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo of Chicago dismissed Gary Miller's other claims against Ford.

According to the decision, Miller was fired in September 1998 in the wake of an internal investigation into a series of so-called sex parties that employees held on plant grounds.

Miller contends he wasn't present at the parties and didn't know about them until afterward. He claims he was fired as a scapegoat so Ford could show that it was taking remedial action in light of a number of sexual harassment suits against the company.

Ford denies the firing was improper, asserting that Miller failed to stop the misconduct or to notify appropriate managers about it, said spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes. "Ford will not tolerate any type of harassment and behavior of this nature," she said.

Bucklo's decision let stand Miller's allegation that he could not be fired without good cause, saying Miller is entitled to an opportunity to develop that claim. But, she said, Ford again can ask to have that claim thrown out if there is undisputed evidence of Miller's status as an at-will employee - an employee who can be terminated for any reason.

Vokes said Miller was clearly an at-will employee, adding, "All management employees sign a contract upon hiring that they are at-will employees."

Bucklo found no basis for Miller's other allegations, including claims that he was fired in retaliation for being a whistleblower and that Ford was negligent in conducting its investigation of sexual harassment at the plant.

Miller's lawyer did not return phone calls seeking comment.

You can reach Eric Freedman at freedma5@msu.edu
Tags: Legal Ford

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