Richard Barcomb v. General Motors LLC

United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 19-1350 ___________________________ Richard Barcomb lllllllllllllllllllllPlaintiff - Appellant v. General Motors LLC lllllllllllllllllllllDefendant - Appellee ___________________________ No. 19-1870 ___________________________ Richard Barcomb lllllllllllllllllllllPlaintiff - Appellant v. General Motors, LLC lllllllllllllllllllllDefendant - Appellee ____________ Appeals from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis ____________ Submitted: December 12, 2019 Filed: October 15, 2020 ____________ Before ERICKSON, MELLOY, and KOBES, Circuit Judges. ____________ KOBES, Circuit Judge. Richard Barcomb alleged that he was wrongfully fired by General Motors, LLC, under both federal and state law because he reported safety issues with the manufacturing process at the plant in Wentzville, Arkansas. The district court granted summary judgment to GM on the retaliatory discharge claim under § 31307 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Pub. L. 112- 141, 126 Stat. 405, 765–769 (July 6, 2012), codified at 49 U.S.C. § 30171, and it granted costs to GM under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d).1 Barcomb appeals, and we affirm in part and reverse in part. I. From 2014 until his termination in 2016, Barcomb worked in the plant’s Final Process Repair Department. As a vehicle progresses through the assembly line and errors occur, employees report and log damaged vehicles in an electronic system, the Global Standard Inspection Process (GSIP), and on paper tickets. Those vehicles then go to the Final Process Repair phase where the mechanics (like Barcomb) make the needed repairs. Once repairs are completed, the employee marks it in GSIP (and presumably the paper ticket) and the vehicle is later tested and sent through a final inspection line. 1 The district court also dismissed Barcomb’s wrongful termination claim arising under Missouri’s public policy claim exception. We agree that this state law claim falls with Barcomb’s MAP-21 retaliation claim. -2- Beginning in January 2015, Barcomb became concerned that his co-workers were falsely marking repairs complete in GSIP. These false reports ranged from cosmetic to safety-related issues. He “took serious issue with personnel who were trying to take credit for doing work they had not done” and made those repairs himself. D. Ct. Dkt. 57 at 2–3. Barcomb identified necessary repairs based on the paper tickets that accompanied the vehicles. In one case, he found that both the GSIP and paper tickets indicated a repair to a broken steering plug had been completed, but a note on the windshield indicated otherwise. He replaced the broken plug and reported the GSIP failure to GM’s safety hotline. He also reported concerns about the false reports, or fraud as he refers to it in his complaint, to his supervisor, the shift leaders, and the general assembly area manager. GM investigated these reports. In May 2016, GM terminated Barcomb for creating a hostile work environment due to a threatening comment Barcomb made during an involuntary disciplinary review. He filed suit alleging that GM violated MAP-21 by retaliating against him for alerting management to “motor vehicle defects falsely reported and/or ...

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