Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

RIVERA v. BACCARAT

January 8, 1999

IRMA RIVERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BACCARAT, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Francis, United States Magistrate Judge.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
  The plaintiff in this case, Irma Rivera, sued her former
employer, Baccarat, Inc. ("Baccarat"), alleging that it had
terminated her from her job as a salesperson on the basis of her
age and national origin. After trial, a jury rejected Ms.
Rivera's age discrimination claim but awarded her compensatory
and punitive damages on the ground that she had been discharged
because she is Hispanic in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
In a previous opinion, Rivera v. Baccarat, Inc., 10 F. Supp.2d 318
 (S.D.N.Y. 1998), I denied Baccarat's motion for judgment as a
matter of law or for a new trial, but I reduced the damage award
to the statutory maximum of $50,000 as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1981a.

The plaintiff now moves for an award of back pay and related benefits as well as front pay, issues that the parties had agreed would be reserved for decision by the Court. I suggested that the parties conduct an evidentiary hearing on these matters, but they demurred, preferring to submit a set of stipulated facts and to rely on the trial transcript.

Background

Ms. Rivera was terminated by Baccarat on July 29, 1995. (Stipulation dated Nov. 30, 1998 ("Stip.") ¶ 1(a)). She then went on a previously planned vacation before beginning to search for new employment during the first week of September 1995. (Tr. 372-73; Stip. ¶ 1(b)).*fn1 On October 10, 1995, she was hired as a salesperson by Bernardaud, which, like Baccarat, sells fine tableware. (Stip. ¶ 1(c)).

Ms. Rivera was terminated by Bernardaud on July 15, 1996. (Stip. ¶ 1(c)). She then resumed her job search and was hired in the bridal registry department at Bloomingdale's on December 10, 1996. (Stip. ¶ 1(d)).

The plaintiff now seeks compensation for lost wages, vacation pay, and sick pay; for the costs she incurred in continuing her health insurance coverage; and for the employer's contribution to a 401(k) retirement program. She also seeks an award of front pay and future benefits.

Discussion

A. Back Wages

It is the "purpose of Title VII to make persons whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful employment discrimination." Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 418, 95 S.Ct. 2362, 45 L.Ed.2d 280 (1975). Accordingly, while an award of back pay is not automatic, it "should be denied only for reasons which, if applied generally, would not frustrate the central statutory purposes of eradicating discrimination throughout the economy and making persons whole for injuries suffered through past discrimination." Id. at 421, 95 S.Ct. 2362 (footnote omitted). Here, Baccarat does not dispute that some award of back pay is appropriate. However, the parties disagree over the period for which back pay should be granted and the method of calculation.

Baccarat contends that Ms. Rivera is entitled to back pay only for the period during which she was seeking work and before she was hired by Bernardaud. The defendant argues that compensation should not be allowed for any subsequent period both because Ms. Rivera was terminated by Bernardaud for inadequate performance and because she failed thereafter to seek substantially equivalent employment, opting instead to take a lower paying job at Bloomingdale's. (Letter of Judith A. Stoll dated Aug. 6, 1998 ("Stoll Letter"), at 2).

At trial, the plaintiff first testified to the job search she made after her termination from Baccarat. She solicited leads from her former colleagues at Baccarat, reviewed classified ads, and made telephone calls to department stores, boutiques, and offices. (Tr. 287-89, 373). She did not restrict her search to Manhattan, but also looked for opportunities in the Bronx, Queens, and New Jersey. (Tr. 287). Among the stores she contacted were Bergdorf Goodman, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's, Lalique, and Kristave. (Tr. 288). After about five weeks of seeking work, Ms. Rivera was hired by Bernardaud, where her job responsibilities were similar to those at Baccarat and her compensation was roughly comparable. (Tr. 374-75; Stip. ¶¶ 2, 3, 6, 8-9).

According to Ms. Rivera, she was discharged from Bernardaud when the outlet in which she was working closed. (Tr. 291-93, 377-78). She then began a new job search which involved the same types of efforts she had made after her termination from Baccarat. (Tv. 294). Ms. Rivera received no response to her inquiries until she was hired by Bloomingdale's in the bridal registry department. (Tr. 294-95). There, her duties are more limited than they had been at Baccarat or Bernardaud, and her compensation and benefits are significantly diminished. (Tr. 295-96; Stip. ¶¶ 2-4, 6-10).

A victim of employment discrimination must mitigate her damages by using reasonable diligence to find suitable employment. Greenway v. Buffalo Hilton Hotel, 143 F.3d 47, 53 (2d Cir. 1998); Dailey v. Societe Generale, 108 F.3d 451, 455 (2d Cir. 1997). However, "the employer has the burden to demonstrate that suitable work existed in the marketplace and that its former employee made no reasonable effort to find it." Greenway, 143 F.3d at 53 (citing Dailey, 108 F.3d at 456).

Here, Baccarat has not met its burden. It is true that in order to fulfill the duty to mitigate, a plaintiff must maintain a suitable job once one has been located. See E.E.O.C. v. Delight Wholesale Co., 973 F.2d 664, 670 (8th Cir. 1992); Brady v. Thurston Motor Lines, Inc., 753 F.2d 1269, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985). But Baccarat has failed to show that Ms. Rivera lost her position at Bernardaud through any fault of her own. While the defendant claims to "have reason to believe" that Ms. Rivera was fired for poor performance (Stoll Letter at 2), it has offered no evidence in support of this allegation. By contrast, Ms. Rivera's unrebutted testimony shows that Bernardaud laid her off because it closed the store where she worked.

Nevertheless, the plaintiff's entitlement to back pay would also be terminated if she failed to make a diligent job search after leaving Bernardaud. Baccarat contends that because she found comparable employment at Bernardaud within five weeks of beginning her first job search, she should also have been able the second time around to locate a position more comparable than the job she accepted at Bloomingdale's. (Stoll Letter at 2). This argument is unpersuasive. While Ms. Rivera's testimony about her second job search was brief, she did indicate that she made the same efforts as she had after Baccarat discharged her. The defendant could have tested this statement on cross-examination but did not do so. Furthermore, Baccarat made no effort to demonstrate that comparable employment was available; the fact that the plaintiff was able to secure a job quickly with Bernardaud may have been purely serendipitous. Indeed, this inference is supported by the fact that Ms. Rivera sought employment for almost five months before accepting a lower paying job at Bloomingdale's. Accordingly, the plaintiff is entitled to back pay from the date of her termination to the date of judgment, reduced by the amount of her earnings during this period.

At Baccarat, Ms. Rivera received a base salary plus commissions. Her salary for 1994, the last full year of her employment there, was $32,390.*fn2 Because commissions are an integral part of an employee's compensation, they must be included in a back pay calculation if they can be predicated with reasonable certainty. See Goldstein v. Manhattan Industries, Inc., 758 F.2d 1435, 1446-47 (11th Cir. 1985); Loubrido v. Hull Dobbs Co., 526 F. Supp. 1055, 1060 (D.P.R. 1981). Here, the plaintiff's commissions fluctuated from year to year, and it is therefore appropriate, as the defendant suggests, to use as a base the average commission received for the years 1990-1994. This is $14,728. (Stip. ΒΆ 2 & n. 1). Thus, salary plus commissions for the base year 1994 is deemed to be $47,118. The parties agree that the compensation that Ms. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.