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Prise v. Alderwoods Group

August 31, 2010

DEBORAH PRISE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALDERWOODS GROUP, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER

I. Background

Plaintiff Deborah Prise ("plaintiff" or "Prise") brought claims of employment discrimination against defendant Alderwoods Group, Inc. ("defendant" or "Alderwoods")*fn1 alleging that defendant subjected her to various forms of illegal discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, 43 PA. STAT. §§ 951 et seq. (the "PHRA"), and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). On September 21, 2009, this court issued a memorandum opinion (Docket No. 169) and an order granting Alderwoods' motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 170) with respect to all claims except plaintiff's retaliation claims under Title VII and the PHRA. As a result, the only claims tried were plaintiff's retaliation claims.

On May 4, 2010 plaintiff's claims of retaliatory discrimination went to trial before a jury. On May 14, 2010, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of plaintiff and against defendant with respect to plaintiff's claim that defendant retaliated against her by suspending her because she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") and rendered a verdict in favor of defendant and against plaintiff on all other retaliation claims. No damages were awarded. On July 10, 2010 plaintiff filed a motion for equitable relief (the "Motion") (Docket No. 266), seeking a permanent injunction requiring defendant to cease and desist from retaliating against its employees in the future if the employees were to engage in activity protected by Title VII.

Defendant responded to the Motion on July 19, 2010. (Docket No. 268.) On July 20, 2010, the court held a hearing on the Motion. At the hearing the court denied plaintiff's Motion for the reasons set forth below, which were detailed on the record.

II. Standard of Review

"[A] plaintiff seeking a permanent injunction must satisfy a four-factor test before a court may grant such relief." eBbay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006).

A plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

Id. (citing Amoco Prod. Co. v. Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987); Weinberger v. RomeroBarcelo, 456 U.S. 305, 311-13 (1982)). The decision to grant or deny permanent injunctive relief is an act of equitable discretion by the district court, reviewable on appeal for abuse of discretion. Id. (citing Romero-Barcelo, 456 U.S. at 320).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff argues that the court has broad and specific authority under Title VII to enjoin a defendant from engaging in unlawful employment practices pursuant to § 706(g)(1) of Title VII. In support, plaintiff cites Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 72 (2006) ("After all, throughout its history, Title VII has provided for injunctions to 'bar like discrimination in the future...'") (quoting Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 418 (1975)). Plaintiff also points to Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 346 (1997), and Franks v. Bowman Transp. Co., 424 U.S. 747, 768-72 (1976).

Prise requests the court to enjoin Alderwoods from future retaliation against other employees who engage in activity protected by Title VII. Prise concedes that she no longer works for Alderwoods, but argues that a cease and desist order is necessary so that employees of Alderwoods understand that they can engage in protected activity, including the filing of an EEOC charge, without fear of retaliation by the company, and Alderwoods is properly charged that it may not engage in conduct that is expressly prohibited by Title VII. Plaintiff notes that the Supreme Court in Albemarle Paper, 442 U.S at 418, and Franks, 424 U.S. at 768-72, instructed that the remedial purposes of Title VII were modeled after those of the National Labor Relations Act, under which cease and desist orders are commonplace. Plaintiff argues that the primary purpose of the retaliatory provision of Title VII is "'[m]aintaining unfettered access to statutory remedial mechanisms.'" (Pl.'s Mot. 3 (quoting Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 346 (1997)). Plaintiff submits that an injunction admonishing an employer to follow the law should issue in every case where an employer has violated Title VII. Plaintiff contends that, absent a cease and desist injunction, defendant's employees will be reluctant to engage in protected activity.

Defendant makes several arguments in response. The court will address three of those arguments which are dispositive. First, defendant asserts that plaintiff waived her claim for injunctive relief by not providing notice of her intent to seek an injunction in her pretrial statement or in the final pretrial order. In support, defendant relies on Walker v. Anderson Electrical Connectors, 944 F.2d 841, 844 (11th Cir. 1991); Jimenez v. Paw-Paw's Camper City, Inc., Civ. A. No. 00-1756, 2002 WL 257691, at *7 (E.D. La. Feb. 22, 2002); and Miller v. Bare, 457 F. Supp. 1359, 1366 (W.D. Pa. 1978) (refusing to address claims for punitive damages and attorney fees that were not "claimed in the Plaintiff's Pretrial Statement, Supplemental Pretrial Statement, nor at the Pretrial Conference").

Second, defendant argues that injunctive relief would be inequitable and inappropriate because the relief would be difficult to enforce, noting that plaintiff no longer works for defendant, and would not have ...


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