United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
date, the Court considered evidence presented by Plaintiff
Michael Breazell's at a July 6, 2017 hearing held for the
purpose of determining the amount of damages to which he is
entitled on his default judgment. After careful
consideration, the Court awards Plaintiff damages in the
amount of $274, 922.75.
underlying background of this case is set forth in full
detail in the Court's previous order granting
Plaintiff's motion for default judgment. Docket no. 21.
In short, Plaintiff alleged that he was employed as a truck
driver by Defendant and was discriminated against on the
basis of his race. Defendant failed to answer or otherwise
appear and the Court granted Plaintiff default judgment on
his Title VII discrimination and retaliation
claims. Because Plaintiff had not yet presented
evidence of his damages, the Court set a hearing to provide
him the opportunity to do so.
hearing, Plaintiff, a lifelong truck driver who holds
extensive licenses, explained that he was employed by
Defendant from approximately April 2014 to January 2015. He
detailed a series of discriminatory incidents at the
workplace, most of which he reported to his superiors. In the
early months of his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff, an
African American, recalled two specific incidents in which he
was called “the N word” by coworkers. Plaintiff
testified that these incidents, which he reported to his
superiors, affected his mental health.
these initial incidents, on May 29, 2014, Plaintiff was in a
serious work-related accident. Plaintiff was sitting in his
truck, which was legally parked, when another driver collided
with him. Plaintiff went to help the other driver, who was
gruesomely injured and died while Plaintiff was helping him.
himself was injured in the accident and missed about a week
of work. Defendant promised to take care of Plaintiff's
medical needs privately (i.e., without Plaintiff filing a
worker's compensation claim). Defendant pressured
Plaintiff to return to work quickly, and ultimately never
followed through on its promise to provide for his medical
returning to work and in the remaining months of 2014, the
discriminatory incidents continued. Plaintiff recalled at
least three or four specific instances of being called
“the N word, ” including one directed at him over
the company radio. Plaintiff continued to report the
incidents and eventually brought them to Human Resources.
Plaintiff testified that the work environment deteriorated,
becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unsatisfying. In
addition, Plaintiff's truck, which he had “built
up, ” was taken from him and given to another
non-African American employee. Plaintiff's job
assignments were reduced, and on several occasions he was
called to jobs unnecessarily and given defective equipment.
These incidents affected Plaintiff's mental health and
his coworker's perception of him.
the end of 2014, Defendant denied Plaintiff medical treatment
for injuries arising from the truck accident and Plaintiff
testified that these denials were due to his race. In
December 2014, Plaintiff made a formal request for
worker's compensation. In January 2015, Plaintiff, giving
up on Defendant's assurances of providing medical care,
used his Veterans Affairs benefits and secured other medical
treatment, which revealed two fractures in his back. Also
that month, Defendant told Plaintiff that if he came back to
work, he would not be given any work. Plaintiff stopped
working for Defendant in January 2015.
January 2015, Plaintiff has been unable to work due to both
his physical and mental conditions, which were worsened
through the discriminatory incidents themselves along with
Defendant's discriminatory failure to provide Plaintiff
with medical care.
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 '
U.S.C. 2000(e) et. seq., prohibits discrimination on
the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
in federal and private employment.” Fitzgerald v.
Sec'y, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, 121 F.3d 203,
206 (5thCir. 1997). Section 2000e-2(a)(1) makes it
unlawful to “discharge any individual, or otherwise to
discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of
employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
intentional violation of § 2000e-2, a court may
“order such affirmative action as may be appropriate,
which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or
hiring of employees, with or without back pay . . ., or any
other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.”
42 U.S.C § 2000e-5(g)(1). When appropriate, courts award
front pay, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages,
and attorney's fees. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981a
(providing for compensatory and punitive damages);
Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 417-18
(1975) (holding that back pay should rarely be denied);
Pollard v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 532
U.S. 843, 850 (2001) (awarding front pay); Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983) (awarding
attorney's fees). Accordingly, this Court will analyze
Plaintiff's evidence in light of the damages requested
while being mindful that “[a] default judgment must not
differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in
the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c).
Whether Plaintiff is Entitled to an Award of Back
threshold legal matter, the Court first concludes that
Plaintiff is entitled to back pay. Once a plaintiff
establishes that unlawful discrimination is the cause of his
losses, he is entitled to back pay. Albemarle, 422
U.S. at 417-18. Back pay compensates the employee for what he
would have earned absent the employers violation of Title
VII. Palasota v. Haggar Clothing Co., 499 F.3d 474,
482 (5th Cir. 2007), order clarified (Sept. 27,
2007). Back pay liability “accrues from the date of the
commencement of the discriminatory course of conduct causing
financial loss until the date damages are
‘settled.'” Id. Back-pay damages can
be calculated at the average rate of pay that the employee
received prior to the unlawful conduct of the employer.
Id. at 486 (affirming award of back-pay at rate
received prior to unlawful demotion). Title VII precludes the
recovery of back-pay damages suffered more than two years
prior to the filing of a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1).
factors may affect the determination of a back pay award.
Palasota, 499 F.3d at 486. Most important for
present purposes is a plaintiff's failure to mitigate
damages-“[b]ack pay is tolled . . . for the period of
time the plaintiff is employed in a comparable position,
” and a plaintiff must make a reasonable and good faith
effort to find such employment. Id. at 486-87. If
the plaintiff simply chooses not to seek comparable
employment, he has failed to mitigate his damages, and his
award of back pay must be reduced accordingly, but if the
plaintiff's inability to find comparable employment is
the result of the employer's discriminatory treatment,
the plaintiff has not failed to mitigate and is eligible for
back pay. Fogg v. Gonzales, 492 F.3d 447, 455 (D.C.
Cir. 2007). Because the failure to mitigate is an affirmative
defense, the burden ...