Can Victims Of Employment Discrimination Get Their Jobs Back?
Having litigated employment discrimination cases for almost twenty years, a question that employment discrimination victims frequently ask our Citrus County, Florida employment law attorneys is whether they can get their job back. As explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975), a fundamental purpose of federal employment discrimination laws is “to make persons whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful discrimination.” In fulfilling the purpose of making victims whole, among the myriad of remedies available to individuals who prevail on their claims of employment discrimination is reinstatement. With reinstatement, along with remedies for lost pay and mental distress damages, an employment discrimination victim is made whole because he or she is back in the job that was lost unlawfully.
As observed by the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Weaver v. Casa Gallardo, Inc., 922 F.2d 1515 (11th Cir. 1991), individuals who prevail on their claims of employment discrimination “are presumptively entitled to either reinstatement or front pay.” Front pay is a remedy to compensate employment discrimination victims for lost future earnings. Front pay is considered an exceptional remedy which courts only award when reinstatement is impractical or impossible. Indeed, courts consider reinstatement the “preferred remedy.” Although the jury decides whether an individual was the victim of employment discrimination, the decision whether an individual who prevails on a claim of employment discrimination will be reinstated is made by the court.
Discrimination Victim Seeks Reinstatement
In the vast majority of cases, employers vigorously contest the reinstatement of employment discrimination victims. Employers generally argue that reinstatement is impracticable because of hostility between the parties caused by the allegations of discrimination and the attendant litigation. Employers also usually claim that reinstating employment discrimination victims will disrupt the workplace. The recent decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Bogan v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc., No. 17-60697 (5th Cir. Mar. 26, 2019) illustrates how severe the hostility between the parties must be in order for a court to use hostility as a basis to deny an employment discrimination victim reinstatement.
In that case, Sheaneter Bogan (Bogan) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, MTD Consumer Group, Inc. (MTD), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Bogan claimed that MTD fired her because of her race and gender in violation of Title VII. Following a trial, the jury found that MTD discriminated against Bogan on the basis of her race and gender. However, perhaps because of MTD’s argument that Bogan did not use reasonable diligence to obtain substantially equivalent employment after she was discharged, the jury awarded her just $1.
Bogan then asked the trial court for reinstatement or front pay. The trial court held a hearing after which it denied both requests. The trial court denied reinstatement, in principal part, because of “discord between the parties.” Bogan then appealed the trial court’s denial of reinstatement. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit reversed the trial court’s denial of reinstatement and sent the case back to the trial court for a ruling on the issue of reinstatement consistent with its opinion.
Relationship Must Be “Irreparably Damaged”
At the outset of its opinion, the Fifth Circuit explained that “hostility between the parties that is likely to disrupt the workplace if the employee returns can be a reason for denying reinstatement.” However, the appellate court observed, “antagonism is a natural by-product of lawsuits, often even more so for ones alleging discrimination.” Thus, “if the hostility common to litigation were sufficient for denial of reinstatement, then reinstatement would cease to be a remedy except in cases where the [employer] felt like reinstating the [employee].”
For these reasons, the Fifth Circuit determined that “more than friction that typically results from litigation or the employee’s termination is required for the discord to be a reason not to order reinstatement.” Rather, “the acrimony must rise to the level at which the parties’ relationship is irreparably damaged.” In other words, the court of appeals explained, the relationship between the parties must be “so broken that it has reached the point of no return.” Because the trial court’s finding of “discord between the parties” did not rise to a sufficient level of hostility to deny reinstatement, the Fifth Circuit instructed the trial court to make a finding as to whether the “relationship between Bogan and MTD rose to the level at which it was irreparably damaged and exceeded the antagonism that normally results from trials” in deciding whether to deny Bogan the “preferred remedy of reinstatement.”
Free Consultation With Inverness Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we are dedicated to representing victims of employment discrimination. If you have experienced discrimination at work or have questions about your rights under employment discrimination laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Citrus County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.