Barnett v. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Montrose, The et al
COURT'S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSION OF LAW. By Judge James A. Parker on 8/28/2015. (mlace, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 14-cv-01765-JAP-GPG
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF THE COUNTY OF MONTROSE
COURT’S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
This employment gender and/or pregnancy discrimination case was tried before a jury
from July 13, 2015 to July 17, 2015 in the federal courthouse in Grand Junction, Colorado. The
jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded back pay damages of $270,000.00, compensatory
damages of $32,500.00 for pain and suffering and humiliation, and special out of pocket
damages of $3,900.00.
The Court, not the jury, is obligated to rule on the Plaintiff’s claim for front pay damages.
Having considered the evidence from the trial of this case, the evidence presented to the Court
outside the presence of the jury, and both parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of
law (Doc. Nos. 94 and 96), the Court now makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions
of Law, in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(1), regarding front pay damages.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Plaintiff is thirty-six years of age and has a Bachelor’s of Science, a Certificate of
Public Management, and a Masters of Public Administration and has been
employed in various positions in the field of government administration.
2. In November 2007, Plaintiff began working at the County of Montrose as a
seasonal/temporary employee earning $25.00 an hour.
3. In August 2009, Plaintiff began working part time for the County of Montrose as a
regular employee earning $27.13 an hour.
4. In February 2011, Plaintiff was promoted to the Director of Internal Services for
the County of Montrose. Plaintiff began working full time in this position and
earned $2846.15 bi-weekly.
5. On March 15, 2013, when the County of Montrose terminated Plaintiff’s
employment, Plaintiff had a base salary of $82,000.00 per year plus benefits; for
the calendar year 2012, Plaintiff’s total compensation comprised of her base salary,
an annual bonus, retirement matching, and health insurance benefits exceeded
6. In February 2013, about four weeks before Defendant terminated Plaintiff’s
position as Director of Internal Services, Plaintiff informed the Montrose County
Manager that she was pregnant. Plaintiff proposed to the Montrose County
Manager that she reduce her workload and work part time for the County of
Montrose for the duration of her pregnancy. Plaintiff’s request for a part time
position was based on being pregnant and having had severe complications with an
earlier pregnancy during which Plaintiff was placed on bed rest. Plaintiff informed
the Montrose County Manager that she was concerned with the amount of stress
involved in her full time position as Director of Internal Services and that she
hoped to reduce stress by working part time for the County of Montrose during the
pregnancy. If permitted to work part time during her pregnancy, Plaintiff intended
to return to full time work as soon as possible after her pregnancy.
7. Plaintiff was willing to continue in the full time position of Director of Internal
Services if part time work could not be made available for her. Plaintiff had three
children and needed to continue working. Plaintiff never intended to be a stay at
8. Plaintiff believed she had the support of the Montrose County Manager to work
part time for the duration of her pregnancy. The details of Plaintiff’s part time
work proposal were not finalized.
9. On March 15, 2013, the Montrose County Manager informed Plaintiff that her
services with the County of Montrose were no longer needed and that her position
of Director of Internal Services was eliminated.
10. Five days after her termination from her position with the County of Montrose,
Plaintiff suffered a miscarriage.
11. Because of hostility Plaintiff experienced in the workplace and because of the
severe emotional impact on Plaintiff from the termination of her employment with
the County of Montrose, Plaintiff is not seeking reinstatement; Defendant County
of Montrose agrees that reinstatement would not be appropriate under the
12. By reason of the amount of the jury’s award of $270,000.00 for back pay damages,
the jury necessarily must have found that Plaintiff would have continued working
full time in the position of Director of Internal Services from March 15, 2013, the
date of termination of Plaintiff’s employment, to the date of trial.
13. After Defendant terminated Plaintiff’s position with the County of Montrose,
Plaintiff made determined efforts to obtain employment in a position comparable
to the position of Director of Internal Services that Plaintiff held with the County
of Montrose; however, Plaintiff was unable to gain comparable employment.
14. Since Defendant terminated Plaintiff’s position, Plaintiff has performed various
types of work, mostly on a temporary basis, including temporary contract work
with the County of Archuleta, Colorado, the only work that was similar in nature
to the work Plaintiff had performed for the County of Montrose.
15. Since the termination of her position with the County of Montrose, Plaintiff has
demonstrated through her work efforts and attempts to find work that she is willing
16. In 2014, Plaintiff gave birth to her fourth child and now has four young children.
Having a family of four young children, who are home-schooled, may impact
Plaintiff’s desire and ability to obtain and perform full time employment
responsibilities in positions similar to the Director of Internal Services position.
The evidence about whether Plaintiff prefers work of a part time nature or full time
work was not fully developed at the trial.
17. Since Plaintiff’s employment with the County of Montrose was terminated on
March 15, 2013, Plaintiff has suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder and has
experienced panic attacks and depression in part caused by the Defendant’s
termination of her position and in part caused by the miscarriage. These matters,
along with the stigma associated with being terminated from her employment with
the County of Montrose, have contributed to the Plaintiff’s inability to find
employment similar to that which she had with the County of Montrose.
18. Although Plaintiff is motivated to seek employment, she lives in a small town in
Montrose County, a rural part of the State of Colorado, and this significantly limits
opportunities for employment in positions for which Plaintiff is qualified by reason
of her education and experience. Plaintiff has already endeavored for two years or
more, without success, to locate comparable work. Thus, the Court finds that it will
take Plaintiff more than five years from March 2013, the date of termination, to
find comparable part time or full time employment in the field of government
administration. The Court determines that it is likely that, through reasonable and
diligent efforts, Plaintiff should be able to find comparable work by March 2020.
19. A number of factors require the Court to limit the front pay award: 1) employees in
government administration, as the testimony at trial demonstrated, do not stay in
their positions indefinitely; 2) the organization of county government divisions and
employment positions is not static; 3) the County of Montrose government
divisions were reorganized a number of times resulting in both the addition and
elimination of jobs and/or job titles; 4) in the years before her termination in
March 2013, Plaintiff more often worked on a part time than a full time basis;
5) Plaintiff’s circumstances at home have changed since March 2013; 6) Plaintiff
presented no evidence that she expected to work for the County of Montrose
through the end of her work years; 7) Plaintiff was and still may be willing to work
on a part time rather than a full time basis; and 8) front pay calculations become
more speculative as they are projected further into the future.
20. The Court finds that $465,011 is a just and equitable front pay award under the
evidence presented. The figure of $465,011 represents the present estimated value
of income that Plaintiff will have lost from the date of trial through March 2020,
the date Plaintiff should be able to secure suitable part time or full time
employment on a steady basis, and is adjusted to include the estimated marginal
federal and state tax rates and Social Security and Medicare tax implications.1
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Based on the foregoing Findings of Fact, the Court makes the following Conclusions of
1. Front pay is an equitable remedy awarded by the Court. Whittington v. Nordam
Grp. Inc., 429 F.3d 986, 1000 (10th Cir. 2005). The concept of front pay is “a
monetary award equal to the gain the plaintiff would have obtained if reinstated.”
Williams v. Pharmacia, Inc., 137 F.3d 944, 951 (10th Cir. 1998). “In determining
The Court will issue a separate decision resolving Plaintiff’s Motion for Entry of Judgment and Pre and PostJudgment Interest.
whether, and how much, front pay is appropriate, the district court must attempt to
make the plaintiff whole, yet the court must avoid granting the plaintiff a
windfall.” Abuan v. Level 3 Communications, Inc., 353 F.3d 1158, 1177 (10th Cir.
2003) (citation omitted).
2. Front pay is money awarded for lost compensation during the period between
judgment and reinstatement or in lieu of reinstatement. Pollard v. E.I. du Pont de
Nemours & Co., 532 U.S. 843, 846 (2001). In cases where reinstatement is not
viable due to continuing hostility between the plaintiff and her employer or
because of psychological injuries the plaintiff has suffered as a result of
discrimination, the Court may order front pay damages as a substitute for
3. The determination of front pay damages is subject to the Court’s discretion. Carter
v. Sedgwick County, Kan., 929 F.2d 1501, 1505 (10th Cir. 1991). The Court
considers numerous factors in assessing an appropriate front pay award, “including
work life expectancy, salary and benefits at the time of termination, any potential
increase in salary through regular promotions and cost of living adjustment, the
reasonable availability of other work opportunities, the period within which the
plaintiff may become re-employed with reasonable efforts, and methods to
discount any award to net present value.” Whittington, 429 F.3d at 1000–01
(citations omitted). The Court also may consider all evidence presented at trial
concerning the individualized circumstances of both the employee and employer.
4. A front-pay award must specify an end date and take into account any amounts
that plaintiffs could earn using reasonable efforts. Carter, 929 F.2d at 1505.
5. The determination of front pay “requires the district court to predict future events
and consider many complicated and interlocking factors …, including the
possibilities of promotions, demotions, terminations, changes in business
circumstances, and death.” Goico v. Boeing Co., 347 F. Supp. 2d 986, 992 (D.
Kan. 2004) (citation omitted). Such unknowable factors make a front pay award
somewhat speculative but a defendant may not take advantage of the fact that its
unlawful conduct was the cause of such uncertainty. Id. (citations omitted).
After considering all of the evidence and the law as it applies to this case, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff is entitled to an award of front pay in the total sum of $465,011. The
Court will enter a separate Judgment in favor of Plaintiff.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
United States District Court
for the District of New Mexico
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