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Aldi’s seemingly sketchy reason for employee’s termination not enough to show retaliatio

State Bar of Michigan E-Journal #58000

Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Snider v. Aldi Inc.

The court held that the plaintiff-employee failed to present documentary evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant-employer terminated her employment in retaliation for seeking benefits or exercising rights under the WDCA. She sued defendant alleging retaliatory discharge under the WDCA. She claimed she was terminated “in retaliation for having claimed a benefit under the WDCA,” and “in retaliation for filing a WDCA claim.” The trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary disposition, finding that plaintiff failed to present any evidence showing that defendant’s proffered reason for discharging her was a pretext for unlawful retaliation under the WDCA. On appeal, the court first found that defendant “articulated a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the discharge, i.e., falsification of the accident report. [Its] handbook provided that an employee was subject to discipline, up to and including termination, for ‘[f]alsification of Company documents,’ and backdating the accident report certainly qualified as falsifying a company document.” It next rejected plaintiff’s argument that defendant’s stated reason for her termination was merely pretext. It found that the evidence tended to show that defendant “terminated plaintiff for the very reason given, she falsified the accident report,” and that the testimony did not show that defendant destroyed or concealed any evidence in an attempt to forestall a WDCA claim. It also rejected her argument that pretext was shown by the district manager’s “conflicting positions or observations that, on one hand, plaintiff indicated a desire for training and that, on the other hand, she backdated the accident report to avoid said training.” It found that “simply because the district manager acknowledged an expressed desire on plaintiff’s part for more training did not mean that the district manager believed that the desire was genuine, nor did it preclude him from questioning that desire at a later date.” The court further found that “although there may have been slight variations in the articulation of the reason(s) for termination, the substance or heart of the reason, falsification of the accident report, was consistent from the point of termination to the conclusion of the litigation.” Finally, it rejected her argument that defendant’s “assertion that her termination was based on an honest belief that she engaged in dishonesty was proof of pretext,” given that there was evidence contradicting this belief. “Again, this argument misses the point that it was the falsification of the document that ultimately caused the demise of plaintiff’s employment with” defendant.

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