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150616 - Craig Hecht v National Heritage Academies

Craig Hecht,
 
Glen N. Lenhoff
 
Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Genesee – Neithercut, G.)
 
National Heritage Academies, Inc.,
 
John J. Bursch
 
Defendant-Appellant.
 

Summary

Plaintiff Craig Hecht, a white third-grade teacher employed by the defendant National Heritage Academies, was discharged for having made an inappropriate racial statement, or joke, in front of students, and for interfering with the investigation of the incident.  Hecht sued, alleging racial discrimination.  He asserted that his race was a substantial reason for the discharge and that he was treated differently than similarly situated African-American employees who had often engaged in racial banter.  The trial court denied National Heritage Academies’ motion for summary disposition.  The case proceeded to trial, where the jury returned a verdict in Hecht’s favor.  The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split unpublished opinion.  National Heritage Academies filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.  The Court granted leave to appeal to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred (1) when it found sufficient direct evidence of racial discrimination; (2) when it concluded that Hecht was similarly situated to African-American employees who had made race-based remarks in the past; and (3) when it held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the disclosures made by the National Heritage Academies to Hecht’s prospective employers of Hecht’s alleged unprofessional misconduct, which were mandated by MCL 380.1230b of the School Code.