News on the EEO beat has been a little thin lately, but here are two affirmances today of jury verdicts for plaintiffs: an FMLA interference/retaliation case from the Seventh Circuit, and a Title VII retaliation case (in an unreported opinion) from the Ninth Circuit.
Ryl-Kuchar v. Care Centers, Inc., No. 08-2688 (7th Cir. May 11, 2009): At trial, the employee established that while pregnant with triplets, she continued to work from home, safely delivered her babies in June 2003, thereafter commenced her FMLA leave (all with the approval of management) and finally resigned effective October 2003. She discovered after the fact that the company retroactively, and apparently without notice, reclassified her as “part-time” during her telecommuting phase — which resulted in suspending her insurance coverage one month before she gave birth. Suing for interference and retaliation under the FMLA — charging that the reclassification was motivated by her FMLA leave — she won at trial, with a judgment of $30,000 for the unpaid hospital bills, prejudgment interest and liquidated damages, for a total judgment of $85,000.
The panel affirms in a short decision, turning back the employer’s argument for judgment as a matter of law, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict: “A reasonable jury could have concluded that Ryl-Kuchar was in fact a full-time employee until she took FMLA leave in late July or early August, thus entitling her to health insurance not only through that date, but also through the date she resigned while out on leave.” (There is also a kerffufle about the identity of the “employer,” also resolved in plaintiff’s favor.) The case is remanded for an award of fees. [Sidelight — counsel for the defendant-appellant failed to appear at oral argument, so only the plaintiff’s lawyer — defending the judgment — argued. The very brief Oral Argument is linked here. One question from the panel, just barely audible.]
Franklin v. California Youth Authority, No. 07-55824 (9th Cir. May 11, 2009): Not a lot of detail in this unsigned order affirming a jury verdict, but a couple of notable points. First, the panel observes that the district court was not required to give preclusive effect to a prior state-law judgment affirming a civil-service decision to terminate the employee for cause. The panel apparently holds that the issues of pretext and retaliatory motive were not actually litigated below. Second, the panel affirms equitable relief despite the prior finding in state court that the employee engaged in misconduct: “Because the jury found that CYA’s sole motivation in dismissing Franklin was retaliation, the district court acted within its discretion in
awarding reinstatement and back pay. [Cite omitted.] The district court considered Franklin’s misconduct but found that granting Franklin reinstatement and back pay was nevertheless equitable. The district court’s
determination is supported by the record.”