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Jeckell v. Crestwood Area School Dist.

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 3, 2008

CAROLE L. JECKELL, PLAINTIFF
v.
CRESTWOOD AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the plaintiff's request for equitable relief following a trial where the jury determined that Defendant Crestwood Area School District had discriminated against Plaintiff Carole L. Jeckell in not hiring her for the position of assistant to the superintendent. Plaintiff seeks back pay, front pay and prejudgment interest. The court held a hearing on this matter on December 2, 2008, and the matter is ripe for decision.

Background

Plaintiff Carole E. Jeckell applied for the positions of high school principal and middle school principal with Defendant Crestwood School District in August 2001. In May 2002, she applied for the position of assistant to the superintendent. With regard to each position, defendant considered the plaintiff, but ultimately hired males. Plaintiff asserts that she was qualified for the positions, and that she was not hired because of her gender. Accordingly, she filed a four-count lawsuit. The complaint asserts causes of action for: 1) violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, gender discrimination; 2) violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, gender discrimination; 3) violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, individual liability against Defendant Geffert; and 4) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all defendants. Prior to trial, we granted summary judgment to the defendant with regard to the claim based upon the 2001 high school and middle school principal positions as barred by the statute of limitations. (Doc. 51).

On February 20, 2007, a jury trial was commenced on the issue of whether defendant failed to hire plaintiff for the position of assistant superintendent in 2002 due to gender discrimination. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant on February 26, 2007. (Doc. 113, Verdict). The jury found that defendant had discriminated against plaintiff based upon her gender in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to hire her for the assistant to the superintendent position in June 2002. (Id.). The jury awarded her $10,000.00 in compensatory damages for such things as mental pain and suffering. (Id.). Plaintiff now requests equitable relief in the form of back pay, front pay and prejudgment interest. With the agreement of counsel, we delayed ruling on these damages pending the jury's determination of liability. Now, based upon the jury's finding of discrimination, we turn to these issues.

Jurisdiction

As this case is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful employment discrimination we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). We have supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Discussion

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has described the equitable remedies that can be awarded to a Title VII plaintiff as follows:

Title VII provides broad equitable discretion, which courts must exercise in light of the large objectives of the Act. The primary objective of Title VII is the elimination of discrimination in the workplace. A central purpose of Title VII relief is to make persons whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful employment discrimination and to restore the plaintiff as fully as possible to the position he otherwise would have been in absent discrimination.

Gunby v. Pennsylvania Elec. Co., 840 F.2d 1108, 1122 (3d Cir. 1988)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

As noted above, plaintiff seeks back pay, front pay and interest. We will address each in turn.

A. Back Pay

Back pay is a remedy used to compensate for the past wages that the plaintiff lost because of the defendant's discrimination. Blum v. Witco Chemical Corp., 829 F.2d 367, 373-74 (3d Cir. 1987). The amount of back pay can be determined by calculating the difference between the wages the plaintiff would have earned absent the discrimination and the wages that the plaintiff actually earned.

In the instant case, the plaintiff presented the expert testimony and report of economist Andrew C. Verzilli, M.B.A. He determined that the back pay, the difference between plaintiff's actual earnings and what she would have earned had defendant hired her, amounted to $87,300.00. (Equitable Relief Hearing Pl. Ex. 1). Verzilli testified regarding his report and plaintiff's losses, and he was cross-examined by defendant's counsel. Defendant presented no expert testimony to counter plaintiff's. Therefore, we will adopt the amount offered by Verzilli and award plaintiff $87,300.00 in back pay.*fn1

B. Prejudgment Interest

The award of prejudgment interest is left to this court's discretion. The rate of prejudgment interest is also left to our discretion. Sun Ship, Inc. v. Matson Navigation Co., 785 F.2d 59, 63 (3d Cir. 1986). We find that an appropriate calculation of prejudgment interest can be found by using the rate of interest applied to post judgment interest. The law provides that such interest is calculated "a rate equal to the weekly average 1-year constant maturity Treasury yield, as published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, for the calendar week preceding the date of the judgment." 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a). This amount for February 23, 2007, the Friday preceding the judgment, is 5.05%.*fn2 To calculate the interest then we multiply the back pay $87,300.00 by the interest rate, 5.05%. The total interest equals $4408.65. We will thus award $4408.65 in prejudgment interest.

C. Front pay

Front pay is used to make the plaintiff whole for future expected losses. Blum, 829 F.2d at 374.*fn3 In keeping with purpose of Title VII relief, that is, to make the plaintiff whole, the amount of front pay is determined by subtracting the amount that the plaintiff is earning from the amount she would have been earning had she been hired by the defendant. At the equitable relief hearing, Verzilli testified that plaintiff's lost future wages, or front pay, amounted to $238,000 to $248,300. Once again, defendant presented no evidence to the contrary. As plaintiff presented evidence that plaintiff will suffer these losses due to defendant's discrimination, we find it appropriate to award plaintiff front pay in an amount in the middle of the range provided by Verzilli, or $243,150.00.*fn4

Conclusion

We find the testimony of plaintiff's expert witness to be convincing on the issue of back pay and front pay. We also find it appropriate to award prejudgment interest on the back pay award. Thus, we award the plaintiff the following equitable relief: $83,700.00 in back pay; $4,408.65 in prejudgment interest; and $243,150.00 in front pay.*fn5 An appropriate order follows.

ORDER

AND NOW, to wit, this 3rd day of December 2008, we award the following equitable relief to the plaintiff:

1) Back pay in the amount of $83, 700.00.

2) Front pay in the amount of $243,150.00.

3) Prejudgment interest in the amount of $4,408.65.

The Clerk of Court is directed to enter a second judgment to reflect this equitable relief.

JUDGE JAMES M. MUNLEY United States District Court


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