United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
DR. RACHEL TUDOR, Plaintiff,
SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY and THE REGIONAL UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF OKLAHOMA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
brought the present action asserting that Defendants violated
Title VII during the course of her employment as an associate
professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University
(“Southeastern”). The matter was tried to a jury,
which found in favor of Plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a
post-trial motion requesting reinstatement. The Court denied
that request, finding that the relationship between the
parties was so fractured as to make reinstatement infeasible.
Plaintiff then requested the Court to award front pay
damages. The Court agreed an award of front pay was
appropriate and calculated an appropriate amount. The Court
then directed the parties to address any alteration that
should be made to the jury's determination of damages
prior to entry of judgment. In response to that Order,
Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Reconsider the calculation of
front pay. Defendants have filed a Motion requesting the
Court to apply the statutory cap on damages, found at 42
U.S.C. § 1981a, to the jury's verdict. With these
filings, the time has come to finalize the matters in this
case and enter judgment.
the Court will address the issues raised by Plaintiff in her
request for reconsideration. Plaintiff argues the Court
improperly calculated front pay by awarding lost wages for
the period between the end of her employment with Defendant
and the start of her employment with Collin College. Perhaps
the Court's language was not as clear as it could have
been. But the Court is aware that front pay is an award for
future damages, not compensation for the period between the
end of employment and the trial. However, as the Court noted
in its Order, the 4th and 5th factors outlined by the Tenth
Circuit in Whittington v. Nordam Group, Inc., 429
F.3d 986, 1002, 1001 (10th Cir. 2005), are determinative in
this case. Those factors direct the Court to consider the
reasonable availability of other work opportunities and the
period within which the Plaintiff may become re-employed with
reasonable efforts. The Court's determination was that
Plaintiff's subsequent employment at Collin College
provided a clear factual basis to answer those two questions.
Thus, a 14-month time period of front pay represented a
reasonable period to make Plaintiff whole. See Carter v.
Sedgewick County, Kan., 929 F.2d 1501, 1505 (10th Cir.
1991). Contrary to Plaintiff's current arguments, the
Court relied on her subsequent employment at Collin College
solely to provide a bright line point at which the Court
finds the effects of Defendant's discriminatory acts
ended. Because those effects ended at that point, any future
economic loss was the result of something other than
Defendants' wrongful conduct. For these reasons,
Plaintiff's arguments regarding the purported
inconsistency of the use of the Collin College information
and the decision that Defendants could not rely on
after-acquired evidence is without merit.
also argues that the Court miscalculated the amount of
damages that should have been awarded. According to
Plaintiff, the amount listed on Dkt. No. 279, Ex. 8 reflected
only a partial year salary. However, Plaintiff's
affidavit stated: “During the last year of my
employment at Southeastern, I was paid approximately $51, 279
in salary.” (Dkt. No. 279, Ex. 3, ¶ 6.) The Court
elected to use the slightly higher salary listed on Ex. 8
given Plaintiff's use of the term
“approximately.” Thus, the evidence presented to
the Court does not support Plaintiff's current argument.
Plaintiff misstates the Court's determination regarding
Plaintiff's qualification to teach. The Court found that
reinstating Plaintiff at Southeastern was not feasible
because of ongoing hostility between the parties. One example
of that ongoing hostility was evidenced by Defendants'
argument that Plaintiff was not qualified to be a tenured
professor. The Court's decision on that issue was limited
to recognizing that placing Plaintiff back into that
environment would likely foster future conflict between the
parties and that fact supported the Court's determination
that reinstatement was not feasible. The Court's rulings
are not irreconcilable.
reasons outlined herein, Plaintiff's request for
reconsideration will be denied.
request the jury award be capped at $300, 000 pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1981a. Plaintiff raises several arguments, none
of which merit much discussion. First, it is clear from not
only Defendants' filings in this matter but the
statements of Plaintiff's counsel that there was no
question about Defendants' intent to raise the statutory
cap. Thus, Plaintiff's arguments of waiver are without
merit. As for Plaintiff's argument related to the general
nature of the verdict form, the Court finds that position
disingenuous. Plaintiff also agreed to the form of verdict as
it was submitted to the jury. Thus, those grounds raised by
Plaintiff to not apply the cap are rejected by the Court.
parties agree that the cap applies to compensatory damages
but not to back pay. Defendants argue the jury could not have
intended its verdict to include back pay damages because
there was no evidence to support such an award.
Alternatively, Defendants argue that in the event some back
pay is awarded it must be limited to the period between the
end of Plaintiff's employment with Defendant and the
start of her employment at Collin College. Defendants assert
that if the Court determines a back pay award is warranted,
the amount is properly reflected by the Court's previous
calculation of wages lost during this period.
argues any application of the cap will result in a Seventh
Amendment violation because the jury rendered a general
verdict. On this point, Plaintiff is mistaken. Statutory
damage caps do not violate the Seventh Amendment as they are
not a reexamination of the verdict but implementation of
legislative policy about the amount of damages that should be
recoverable. Estate of Sisk v. Manzanares, 270
F.Supp.2d 1265, 1278 (D. Kan. 2003) (gathering cases at note
45). Here, the evidence before the jury related to damages
that are not subject to the statutory cap was very limited.
At most, the jury could have awarded some measure of back pay
damages. The remaining evidence presented on the issue of
damages sought recovery for items subject to the cap. While
the Court is not persuaded that the jury had sufficient
evidence from which to award back pay damages, that doubt is
not sufficient to set aside the verdict on that issue.
Accordingly, the Court will award Plaintiff $60, 040.77 in
back pay, apply the cap to the remainder of the verdict,
resulting in an award of $360, 040.77. Defendants'
arguments for further reduction are rejected, as they lack
sufficient evidentiary or legal support.
reasons set forth more fully herein, Plaintiff Dr. Rachel
Tudor's Motion Seeking Reconsideration of Front Pay (Dkt.
No. 288) is DENIED. Defendants' request for application
of the 42 U.S.C. § 1981a cap is granted. Plaintiff is
awarded $360, 040.77 in back pay and ...