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HOOTEN v. PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY

November 30, 1984

Teresa HOOTEN, O.D. and John Kozempel, her spouse
v.
PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF OPTOMETRY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KELLY

 James McGirr KELLY, District Judge.

 Teresa Hooten has brought an action against Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) for (1) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq..; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (3) wrongful discharge from her employment. Her husband has filed a pendent claim for loss of consortium. PCO has moved for the court to strike the request for compensatory and punitive damages and to dismiss all tort claims for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted.

 When presented with a motion to dismiss, the court must view the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Mahone v. Waddle, 564 F.2d 1018 (3d Cir.1977), cert. denied, 438 U.S. 904, 98 S. Ct. 3122, 57 L. Ed. 2d 1147 (1978) and the complaint should never be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts to support a claim which would afford her relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957).

 I. FACTS

 Plaintiff Teresa Hooten, a former employee of PCO has alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex in contravention of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint states that PCO management made a continuum of disparaging remarks about both her marital status and her role as a mother. The harassment also took the form of purposely overloading her work schedule forcing her to commit errors which caused professional embarrassment. As a result of this activity, plaintiff collapsed at work and was ignored by her supervisors who refused to come to her aid. Plaintiff was eventually terminated from her employment with PCO and has characterized that action as the result of the cumulative effects of defendants' discrimination toward her. Her husband claims a loss of consortium due to PCO's actions. This memorandum will address, in order, defendant's motion to strike damage claims from Count I of the complaint (TITLE VII) and defendant's motion to dismiss Counts II, III and IV for failure to state a claim.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Does 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g) Provide for Compensatory and Punitive Damages?

 Hooten's request for relief for the violations of Title VII include reinstatement of her position with back pay along with compensatory damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages. Defendant objects to any relief being granted in the nature of compensatory or punitive damages since Title VII does not provide such remedies if discrimination is found to have happened.

 It is well settled within this Circuit that punitive damages may not be recovered under a Title VII action. Richerson v. Jones, 551 F.2d 918, 926-28 (3d Cir.1977). 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(g) directs the court as to its permissive range of responses once it finds that the defendant has engaged in unlawful conduct.

 That section reads in part, "[the court may] order such affirmative actions as may be appropriate, which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement . . . with or without backpay . . . or any other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate." The court in Richerson interpreted the phrase " any other equitable relief " to foreclose any punitive damage claims since punitive damages are a traditional form of relief offered in courts of law and not courts of equity. Richerson, 927. In arriving at this conclusion, the court examined the legislative history of the provision and found no evidence of a congressional intent to authorize punitive damage awards under Title VII. Id. at 927.

 While our Circuit has addressed the issue of punitive damages, it has not yet decided whether the § 2000e-5(g) provide for compensatory damage award beyond back pay. The district courts within our circuit have reached contradictory results on this issue. Compare Bradley v. Corson, 501 F. Supp. 75 (E.D.Pa.1980) and Presseisen v. Swarthmore College, 71 F.R.D. 34, aff'd. mem., 582 F.2d 1275 (3rd Cir.1978) (compensatory damages unavailable) with Ahmad v. Independent Order for Foresters, 81 F.R.D. 722 (E.D.Pa.1979) (compensatory damages available).

 We believe that the better view is expressed in the Bradley and Presseisen decisions which draw much of their legal reasoning from Van Hoomissen v. Xerox Corp., 368 F. Supp. 829 (N.D.Ca.1973). In the Van Hoomissen decision, after a thorough examination of the lengthy legislative history surrounding Title VII, that court held that Congress intended to provide a "wide panorama of equitable tools" that courts might use but did not intend that courts should punish defendants by imposing upon them large money awards in the form of compensatory or punitive damages. The debate on the legislation is devoid of any reference to money damages outside of the specific provisions written into the statute providing back pay.

 This court believes that the issue then is not one of whether the claim for relief is characterized as compensatory or punitive in nature, but rather is the plaintiff requesting the court to fashion a ...


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