United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
LOUIS E. WARREN Plaintiff,
MAIN INDUSTRIES INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Raymond A. Jackson United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on Louis E. Warren Jr.'s
("Plaintiff or "Mr. Warren") Petition for
Equitable Relief. On October 12, 2017, a jury returned a
verdict in favor of Mr. Warren finding Main Industries Inc.,
("Defendant" or "Main Industries") liable
for employment discrimination on the basis of race pursuant
to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ECF Nos. 39-40.
The jury awarded Plaintiff $150, 000 in compensatory damages.
Id. at 40. Now, before the Court is the issue of
front pay and back pay damages. Having carefully reviewed the
parties' pleadings, the Court finds this matter ripe for
judicial determination without an additional hearing. The
Court will consider the appropriateness of each relief in
Back Pay Damages
a prevailing plaintiff under Title VII is entitled to back
pay. See Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, Ml U.S. 405,
420-21 (1975). In Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, the
United States Supreme Court ("Supreme Court")
established a strong presumption in favor of back pay awards
to victims of employment discrimination under Title VII.
Id. The Supreme Court has held that back pay is
awarded "to make persons whole for injuries suffered on
account of unlawful employment discrimination."
Id. at 418. The back pay period of recovery
commences from the time the discriminatory act causes
economic injury, and terminates on the date of judgment.
See Wells v. North Carolina Bd of Alcoholic Control,
714 F.2d 340, 342 (4th Cir. 1983). However, "the right
of a successful Title VII plaintiff to claim back pay is
limited in degree by the statutory duty to mitigate employer
damages, " and a plaintiff "forfeits his right to
back pay if he refuses a job substantially equivalent to the
one he was denied." Brady v. Thurston Motor Lines,
Inc., 753 F.2d 1269, 1273 (4th Cir. 1985) (citations
omitted). The defendant carries the burden of establishing
that a plaintiff "did not exert reasonable efforts to
mitigate . .. damages." Martin v. Cavalier Hotel
Corp., 48 F.3d 1343, 1358 (4th Cir. 1995) (citations
parties stipulated in the Final Pre-Trial Order that
Plaintiff was terminated on December 16, 2015.ECF No. 27. Thus,
the Court will consider the back pay time period commencing
on December 16, 2015, and terminating on October 12, 2017,
the date the verdict was entered. See ECF No. 40.
argues that Plaintiff failed to mitigate damages and
therefore is not entitled to back pay. See generally
ECF No. 45. In support, Defendant argues that Plaintiff did
not conduct reasonable job search activities, failed to
submit a sufficient number of job applications during the
period of his unemployment, improperly quit a job he was
offered, and refused to report to an additional job
opportunity. Id. at 1-2. The Court rejects
Defendant's arguments and finds that Plaintiff presented
sufficient evidence to support a reasonable effort to
mitigate damages. Plaintiff presented evidence at trial, that
following his termination, he inquired into approximately
fifteen different painting companies for potential employment
and submitted ten applications. See ECF No. 44-1 at
21. Defendant also employed himself by working approximately
ten painting "side jobs" to earn money.
Id. at 36-37.
while Defendant argues that Plaintiff failed to mitigate
damages because he did not use specific methods,
.i.e., conducting job searches online, checking the
newspaper or other printed materials for job postings,
see ECF No. 45 at 4, the Court is unpersuaded. On
the contrary, such specificity is not required as Plaintiff
need make only "reasonable efforts" to mitigate his
damages. See Martin, 48 F.3d at 1343. Likewise, the
Court rejects Defendant's argument that Plaintiff failed
to mitigate damages because he did not apply for an
employment with a specific company - Northrop Grumman.
See ECF No. 45 at 3. Moreover, considering that
Plaintiff utilized his sister to assist with job searching
given his lack of familiarity with a computer, see
ECF No. 44-lat 39, 43-44, and, travelled to various companies
in pursuit of potential employment opportunities,
id., the Court finds that Plaintiff made reasonable
efforts to mitigate damages. The Court is also unpersuaded by
Defendant's argument that Plaintiff failed to mitigate
damages because he rejected two potential employment
opportunities - Smithfield Food' dog food plant and a
private painting company. See ECF No.45 at 3.
to Plaintiff, he was offered and accepted a job at Smithfield
Food, but quit shortly after his first day because the
plant's smell made him sick. ECF No. 44-1 at 21, 40-41.
The Court finds that Plaintiff did not fail to mitigate
damages because he resigned from this position. The Supreme
Court has held that a claimant "need not go into another
line of work, accept a demotion, or take a demeaning
position." See Ford Motor Co. v. E.E.O.C, 458
U.S 219, 231 (1982). Instead, "the burden regarding
mitigation requires the defendant to prove that substantially
equivalent work was available and that the employee did not
use reasonable diligence to obtain it." See Crump v.
United States Dept. Navy, 205 F.Supp.3d 730, 745 (E.D.
Va. 2016) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Here,
the Court finds that the Smithfield Food dog plant position
was not comparable employment. Indeed, that position would
have required Plaintiff to work in an environment where the
conditions made him sick. Moreover, the compensation for this
position was significantly less given that the job at
Smithfield paid $9.50 an hour while Plaintiff made $21.50 per
hour while employed at Main Industries. See ECF No.
44-1 at 41; ECF No. 27 at 2.
Court is also unpersuaded by Defendant's argument that
Plaintiff failed to take reasonable efforts to mitigate
damages because he did not report to a job opportunity at a
private painting company. ECF No. 45 at 3. At trial,
Plaintiff testified that he was offered a job at a private
painting company but was unable to work on the requested day
because he had to see his attorney. ECF No. 44-1 at 41. The
Court does not find Plaintiffs explanation unreasonable.
Plaintiffs interest in his suit and his availability in
assisting counsel to prepare a meritorious case, are not
unreasonable interests or frivolous pursuits. Moreover,
Plaintiff showed a willingness to work given testimony that
on two occasions he was headed to work for the company but
was informed while in route he was not needed. See
Id. at 41-42. Additionally, Defendant fails to
demonstrate that the work was substantially equivalent.
See Ford, 458 U.S at 231. On the contrary, Defendant
simply asserts that Plaintiffs failure to maintain the
employment was an unreasonable effort to support mitigation
of damages. See ECF No. 45 at 4. This is not
sufficient and thus Defendant fails to meet its burden.
the Court finds that Defendant fails to meet its burden to
demonstrate that substantially equivalent work was available
and that Mr. Warren did not use reasonable diligence to
obtain it. Accordingly, Plaintiffs award of back pay will not
be reduced or eliminated for failure to mitigate damages.
calculating a dollar amount for a back pay award, the Court
aims to "to make the victims of unlawful discrimination
whole, " and restore them "so far as possible ...
to a position where they would have been were it not for the
unlawful discrimination." Albemarle, 422 U.S.
at 421 (internal quotation omitted). Moreover, in calculating
a back pay award, a court should include other kinds of
employment including employment compensation, e.g.,
fringe benefits, reasonably anticipated salary increases,
etc. See Crump, 205 F.Supp.3d at 745 (citations
omitted). However, the burden is on the Plaintiff to
demonstrate that these benefits were part of the earnings
lost as a result of the unlawful employment action. See
id.; see also Herring v. Thomasville Furniture Indus.,
Inc., No. 4:96CV00081, 1999 WL 1937352, at * 5 (M.D.
N.C. Aug. 31, 1999) (holding that Plaintiff failed to present
evidence on which the Court could base an award of raises,