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Hale v. Emporia State University

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 9, 2019



          Daniel D. Crabtree, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on pro se plaintiff Angelica Hale's Brief Regarding Economic Damages (Doc. 150). Defendant Emporia State University (“ESU”) has responded (Doc. 153).

         I. Background

         On July 16, 2019, the court entered a Memorandum and Order finding for Ms. Hale on her Title VII retaliation claim (Doc. 149-1). The court awarded Ms. Hale nominal damages of $1 because the court lacked sufficient evidence to determine the appropriate relief.[1] Doc. 149-1 at 23. The court directed the parties to submit briefing on front pay, reinstatement, and back pay. Id.

         II. Discussion

         Title VII permits the court to award a successful plaintiff any appropriate relief, including reinstatement, back pay, “‘or any other equitable relief'” that the court deems appropriate. Daneshvar v. Graphic Tech., Inc., 40 F.Supp.2d 1225, 1239 (D. Kan. 1998) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)). “District courts possess considerable discretion to devise appropriate remedies for Title VII violations.” Zisumbo v. Ogden Reg'l Med. Ctr., 801 F.3d 1185, 1203 (10th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). But, the record must support the district court's damages award. Davoll v. Webb, 194 F.3d 1116, 1145 (10th Cir. 1999). For reasons explained below, the court defers ruling on Ms. Hale's request for economic damages and orders an evidentiary hearing on the front pay and back pay awards.

         A. Back pay

         Back pay awards generally cover the time up until the date of judgment. Daneshvar, 40 F.Supp.2d at 1239 (citing Daniel v. Loveridge, 32 F.3d 1472, 1477 (10th Cir. 1994)). But, plaintiff has an obligation to use reasonable methods to mitigate her damages. Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1)). “This mitigation usually takes the form of replacement employment.” Leidel v. Ameripride Servs., Inc., 276 F.Supp.2d 1138, 1142 (D. Kan. 2003) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1)). The employer shoulders the burden of showing a lack of reasonable diligence. Id. (citing EEOC v. Sandia Corp., 639 F.2d 600, 627 (10th Cir. 1980)). The employer can meet its burden by showing, “‘(1) that the damage suffered by plaintiff could have been avoided, i.e., that there were suitable positions which plaintiff could have discovered and for which [s]he was qualified; and (2) that plaintiff failed to use reasonable care and diligence in seeking such a position.'” Id. (quoting Sandia, 639 F.2d at 627).

         Ms. Hale requests back pay of $362, 077.06, plus interest. Doc. 150 at 9. She bases her calculation on her projected salary-had ESU employed her as marketing coordinator-from 2015 to 2019. Doc. 150-1 at 30. She asserts that ESU had promised her the position for one year, at an annual salary of $56, 100. Id. She then applied a 34% increase to the salary to account for benefits, bringing the total amount for the first year to $84, 900. Id. For the next year (the 2016-17 academic year), she calculated a total amount of $86, 173.50, based on a projected 1.5% annual raise. Id. She predicts that she would have completed her bachelor's degree after two years, raising her total compensation to $94, 790.85 for the 2017-18 academic year. Id. Finally, she projects compensation of $96, 212.71 in 2018-19. Id.

         ESU argues there is no evidence in the record supporting Ms. Hale's assumptions and calculations. Doc. 153 at 3. The only evidence in the record, ESU argues, are copies of Ms. Hale's three temporary appointments. Id. at 4. Ms. Hale's third temporary appointment was for a period of 10 weeks at a total salary of $8, 888.90. Id. She resigned three weeks before the end of that appointment. Id. So, ESU concedes, Ms. Hale could claim $2, 6667.67 as back pay for those three weeks. Id. ESU asserts that otherwise, the record contains no evidence supporting a back pay award of $362, 077.06. Id. at 3.

         The court agrees with ESU. No. evidence in the record supports Ms. Hale's calculations. It is true that Ms. Hale's brief asserts ESU had promised her the marketing coordinator position at an annual salary of $56, 100. But that assertion is not evidence. Also, her calculations assume that she would have received that salary and remained in the position until now, completed her bachelor's degree, and received periodic raises.

         ESU contends that the evidence shows Ms. Hale has failed to mitigate her back pay damages. Exhibit A shows Ms. Hale's email inbox containing job-related emails, but provides no information about what jobs Ms. Hale actually applied for, or the result of those job applications. Doc. 150-1 at 2-15. Ms. Hale's conclusory assertions that she was unemployable from 2015 to present-and that she is thus entitled to a salary, benefits, and raises she might have earned at ESU-doesn't provide any evidence to support findings justifying back pay.

         Ms. Hale did not request an evidentiary hearing on the matter.[2] But, since the court cannot award back pay without evidence on Ms. Hale's claimed damages and her mitigation efforts, the court reserves its ruling. And, the court orders an evidentiary hearing on the matter.

         B. ...

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