Is it required that a similarly-situated comparator have worked for the same supervisor? Once again and for at least the fourth time in a published decision the Sixth Circuit has ruled that "it is not a prerequisite in discrimination cases that a [similarly-situated] comparator have the same supervisor as the plaintiff." The most recent decision is Louzon v. Ford Motor Company, No 11-2356 (June 4, 2013).
Back in a 1992 decision, Mitchell v. Toledo Hospital, 964 F3d 577 (6th Cir. 1992), the Sixth Circuit stated that "to be deemed 'similarly-situated', the individuals with whom the plaintiff seeks to compare his/her treatment must have dealt with the same supervisor." Since then the exasperated Court reiterated "we have since clarified Mitchell, explaining that the supervisor inquiry "does not automatically apply in every employment discrimination case." This point the Sixth Circuit has stated in a quartet of cases: Bobo v UPS, 665 F3d 741 (6th Cir 2012); McMillan v Castro, 405 F3d 405 (6th Cir 2005); Seay v. TVA, 339 F3d 454 (6th Cir 2003); Ercegovich v Goodyear Tire & Rubber, 154 F.3d 344 (6th Cir 1998).
The Sixth Circuit's ruling is yet another installment in an ongoing effort to educate district court judges that case-by-case analysis of employment discrimination cases is necessary, not rote application of supposed rules. The district court's error here was all too common. Previous posts on this blog have dealt with the numerous decisions as to the "similarly-situated" issue: Is Whether A Comparator Is Similarly Situated A Jury Question?, Similarly-Situated In All Relevant Respects; The Sixth Circuit Reverses Based On the District Court's Limiting of Plaintiff's Discovery, Who Is A Similarly-Situated Comparator? The Sixth Circuit Again Clarifies, Can A Supervisor Be Similarly Situated To A Subordinate Employee?, "Similarly Situated" Employees Need Not Have the Same Supervisor.