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Tyrone D. Perkins v. Eric Shinseki

February 8, 2013

TYRONE D. PERKINS
v.
ERIC SHINSEKI



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.

MEMORANDUM RE: POST-TRIAL MOTION

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Tyrone Perkins ("Plaintiff"), an African-American male and former employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"), brought this action against Eric K. Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs ("Defendant"). Plaintiff alleged that VA management, in particular James Ramos and Carol Winter, racially discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff alleged three adverse actions:

1. In 2006, management denied Plaintiff's application for a promotion to the GS-13 Systems Administrator position in favor of two white male candidates;

2. Management unfairly charged him AWOL (away without leave) on a number of dates in 2006 and 2009; and

3. In 2009, management demoted him, reassigned him, and suspended him for 10 days without pay.

After extensive discovery and numerous amended complaints over several years, this case went to trial in July, 2012. The jury returned a verdict, following answers to several interrogatories, which included damages in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $15,000.

Plaintiff has filed a motion (ECF 96) seeking back pay and other damages, equitable relief, including reinstatement, and attorneys' fees and costs. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's petition will be GRANTED in part for certain periods of back pay, and for attorneys' fees and costs. Plaintiff's motion for additional equitable relief will be DENIED.

II. Underlying Facts

Plaintiff worked for the VA from 1977 until his resignation on August 1, 2009. At the time of his resignation, Plaintiff held the position of GS-11 Information Technology Specialist in Philadelphia. During Plaintiff's tenure at the VA, and especially between 2002 and 2009, Plaintiff filed numerous EEO complaints against his employer alleging that his supervisors were racially discriminating against him.

At trial, the testimony was disputed on many issues. Plaintiff testified to numerous acts and omissions by the executives at the VA which, he told the jury, showed that the VA intended to and did discriminate him based on his race, and retaliated against him because of his EEO complaints. The VA witnesses consistently disputed Plaintiff's version of events, and denied any racial discrimination or retaliation because of the EEO complaints.

The jury answered the first interrogatory finding that Plaintiff had failed to prove discrimination based on race, and, therefore, the Court is bound by that finding, which is not attacked by Plaintiff's post-trial motion. However, the jury did find that the VA retaliated against Plaintiff because of his EEO complaints. The Court, with agreement of counsel, had delineated separate jury interrogatories for each of the three adverse actions listed above, but the jury found in favor of Plaintiff only regarding the unfair AWOL charges, reflecting evidence that Plaintiff was not paid for four days of work during 2006 and 2009 (32 hours). The jury found against Plaintiff regarding the promotion in 2006 and the suspension and demotion in 2009.

Plaintiff and the government agree Plaintiff is entitled to $1,853.28 in accordance with the jury's findings in Plaintiff's favor, including interest as required by 5 U.S.C. § 5596.

Plaintiff seeks additional equitable relief as follows:

1. Determination that Plaintiff's prior suspension should be declared void ab initio;

2. The VA should provide Plaintiff with corrected records and full back pay for six (6) additional work days in 2009 for which he was suspended without pay; and

3. Reinstatement of Plaintiff because his decision to resign from the VA and to retire from federal service was the direct result of the retaliatory hostility he had suffered since filing his EEO claims, and this relief is warranted by the jury's finding in his favor regarding the AWOL issue.

It should be noted that Plaintiff's initial post-trial motion and brief asserted that he was entitled to back pay, in addition to the AWOL back pay as reflected in the jury's answer to interrogatory 3(a), and correction of VA records. In a subsequent filing, Plaintiff acknowledged that he had, in fact, received this payment (ECF 99).

After review of the record and briefs, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is not entitled to additional equitable relief because granting this relief would be inconsistent with the jury's verdict, and contrary to precedent.

It should be noted at the outset that Plaintiff's arguments for reinstatement in his post-trial motion rely on fine distinctions for which he sought no jury findings either in his points for charge (ECF 77) or during the discussion of proposed jury interrogatories at trial. Specifically, Plaintiff did not seek jury findings regarding a hostile work environment, or whether the VA forced him to resign, which may have warranted the relief he currently seeks. In addition, the Court's instructions to the jury, as to which Plaintiff made no objection, specifically delineated the issues that the jury was to decide. The Court's charge stated:

In this case, Mr. Perkins is alleging that his former employer, the VA, took a number of adverse employment actions against him based on his race. Specifically Mr. Perkins contends that the VA discriminated against him when it (1) denied him a GS-13 promotion in 2006, (2) charged him AWOL on certain days in 2006 and 2009, and (3) demoted, reassigned, and suspended him in 2009. In order for Mr. Perkins to recover on this discrimination claim he must prove that the VA intentionally discriminated against him.

The Court specifically told the jury, with agreement of counsel, that it was not to award damages for the amount of wages that Plaintiff would have earned either in the past or in the future if he had continued employment with the defendant, so called "back pay" and "front pay."

III. Request for Equitable Relief

Plaintiff's major request for equitable relief is for reinstatement, ...


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