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Kirby v. J.C. Penney Corp.

December 11, 2009

MARY KATHLEEN KIRBY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.C. PENNEY CORPORATION, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Presently before the Court are a series of post-trial motions filed on behalf of Plaintiff, and respective responses thereto. Specifically, pending are the following:

a) PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR EQUITABLE RELIEF, filed at Doc. # 64, and DEFENDANT'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR EQUITABLE RELIEF, filed at Doc. # 70; and

b) PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR BACK PAY AWARD, filed at Doc. # 65, and DEFENDANT'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR BACK PAY AWARD, filed at Doc. # 71.

The motions are ripe for disposition.

Statement of the Case

Plaintiff brought the present action claiming discrimination due to her race when her employment was terminated by Defendant from her position as a Custom Decorator on or about May 10, 2007. Plaintiff, along with co-worker Geraldine Gardner, were terminated due to "disruptive behavior," specifically an argument that occurred on the premises while both were at work on May 7, 2007. Plaintiff is Caucasian while Ms. Gardner is African-American. Like Plaintiff, Ms. Gardner was also a decorator, and both worked at Defendant's retail store in Monaca, PA. The compensation of both was based on commissions on their respective sales. Plaintiff contended that the Defendant decided to terminate her employment along with Ms. Gardner in order to mitigate any possible claim by Gardner that her firing was racially motivated. The case was tried before a jury beginning on November 2, 2009. On November 6, 2009, the jury found that Defendant intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff because of her race. More particularly, the jury determined that Plaintiff's race was a motivating factor in Defendants's decision to terminate Plaintiff, and that Plaintiff proved that she would not have been terminated for her actions in the absence of the impermissible motivating factor of her race. The jury awarded Plaintiff one dollar ($1.00) in compensatory damages and also assessed one dollar ($1.00) in punitive damages against Defendant. Plaintiff's instant motions follow the jury decision and seek various forms of equitable relief. The Court will address each motion seriatim.

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).

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Equitable Relief (Doc. # 64)

Plaintiff's Motion for Equitable Relief (Doc. # 64) seeks equitable relief in the form of an order directed to Defendant to reinstate Plaintiff or alternatively, to award front pay to Plaintiff. Additionally, Plaintiff seeks an order that Defendant expunge all adverse material concerning her discharge from her personnel records, and an order enjoining Defendant from retaliating against her upon her return to work. Doc. # 64.

As Plaintiff correctly points out and Defendant acknowledges, normally in an employment discrimination case where a plaintiff has been terminated, a court may consider reinstatement of the plaintiff to the position from which she was terminated. Defendant does not oppose reinstatement. Likewise and appropriately so, Defendant does not oppose expunging ...


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