Hawkins v. MV Transportation, Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Peter J. Messitte on 4/7/2017. (aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
JOSEPHINE HA WKINS
MV TRANSPORT AnON,
Civil No. PJM 15-2169
Josephine Hawkins has sued MV Transportation, Inc. (MV Transportation). alleging sex
in employment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.c. ~
2000e, el seq .. She filed her complaint (ECF No. I), pro se, on July 24, 2015. After a number of
problems with service of process, Hawkins filed a Return of Summons on June 10, 2016,
showing service of the summons (and presumably the Complaint)
on the Corporate Trust
Company. registered agent for MV Transportation. The Court independently confirmed that the
Corporate Trust Company is the registered agent for MV Transportation, and that it had in fllct
received the summons and forwarded it to their principal. However, MV Transportation did not
answer or enter an appearance in the case. Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court entered a Default
in favor of Hawkins. Hawkins has now filed a Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 22).
seeking $24,240 in back pay and compensatory
damages, as well as $300,000 in punitive
For the following reasons, Hawkins'
Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 22) is
GRANTED IN PART and REVISED IN PART, limiting the amount of damages she requests.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
with MY Transportationl
began her employment
ECF No. 22-1. As of March 2012, Hawkins
of S 19 per hour over a forty hour week,
Id. At the time Hendricks
for a new supervisor,
1, ECF NO.1-I.
Aff. of Hawkins.
had the second most seniority of the six. AfT. of Hawkins.
she in fact was. Compl.,
I. Aff. of Hawkins.
Lead Road Supervisor
while at the same time he allowed
close to their homes.
of her sex. He treated her as if she were of a lower job position
to the same shili with another
(i.e., a male colleague),
assigned two males to the same shili, he would place the male with more seniority
were male. Compl.,
all of whom
2005. Aff. of
served as a Lead Road Supervisor,
per year. Id. In 2012, Hawkins began working
to travel a great distance
in charge. AfT.
to pick up her work
her male colleagues
to pick up their work vehicles
1. Aff. of Hawkins.
1 Hawkins alleges that MV Transportation employs more than 500 employees and operates more than 130
locations across North America. See Compl. 3; Mtn. for Del'. Judgment, 7. On its website, MV
Transportation states that it "operates more than 200 locations across North America" and is "the # I
contracted paratransit provider in North America." See MV Transportation, Inc. website (April 6, 2017,
2:33 PM), http://www.mvtransit.comlaboutmv,
It was reported in
2012 that MV Transportation had "an employee count of 17,000." Dallas Business Journal, AIV
Transportation acquires Seal/ish firm, http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/ncws/2012106104/mvtransportation-acquires-scottish-finn.html
(April 6, 2017, 2:38 PM). See also Benzinga, 711eTop 21
African-American CEOs in Business, hnps:/lwww.benzinga.com/generallentrepreneurshipl
(April 6, 2017, 2:41 PM) ("[TJhe
company employs more than 17,000 workers and operates more than 190 paratransit, fixed-route, shuttle
and Medicaid contracts.").
scheduled Hawkins to the same shift as Road Supervisors (i.e., those employees she would be
responsible for supervising).
Com pI., Attachment
I. Aff. of Hawkins. In contrast. her male
counterparts would often be charged with supervising four to six Road Supervisors. Compl..
Attachment 1. AlI of Hawkins.
Due to this mistreatment on the basis of her sex, Hawkins made several complaints to
Hendricks. AlI of Hawkins. All of these complaints were ignored, and Hendricks dismissed her
concerns and acted maliciously toward her as a result. Id.
Human Resources Department, which did nothing to alleviate the situation. Id.
On March 17,2013, Hawkins claims she was constructively discharged from her position
at MV Transportation, being unable to continue in the discriminatory work environment. Compl.,
two weeks thereafter,
unemployed. AlI of Hawkins. In April 01'2013, Hawkins secured employment at First Transit in
Capital Heights, Maryland. Id. However, she had to take a position as Road Supervisor rather
than Lead Road Supervisor. Id. Accordingly, her salary was $17 per hour (as compared to $19
per hour at MV Transportation) and she was entitled to only two weeks of paid vacation per year
(as compared to four weeks per year at MV Transportation). Id.
Hawkins filed a charge of discrimination
with the Equal Employment
Commission (EEOC) in 2014. Compl., Attachment 2, ECF No. 1-2. The EEOC investigated her
charge and concluded that Title VII had not been violated. Id. On April 24, 2015, the EEOC
issued Hawkins a right to sue letter giving her 90 days from the date she received the letter to me
suit in federal court. Com pI., Attachment 4, ECF No. 1-4.
On July 24, 2015, Hawkins, pro se, tiled a Complaint in this Court raising the same
allegations that she made before the EEOC. ECF No. I. She seeks monetary damages in the
After a number of problems with service of process, Hawkins filed a Return of Summons
on June 10,2016. ECF No. 16. According to the Return, the Summons was served personally on
June 9, 2016 on Matthew Bartynski of the Corporate Trust Company, MY Transportation's
Resident Agent. Id. MY Transportation failed to file an answer within 20 days and has not done
so since. Just to verify, the Court called MY Transportation's
Resident Agent and spoke to a
representative in the Service of Process department who confirmed that Corporation Trust had
received the Complaint and Summons and forwarded it to MY Transportation. The Court then
attempted to phone MY Transportation at the location listed in Hawkins' Complaint, but there
was no answer. The Court also called other MY Transportation offices in the United States and
spoke with an employee at one franchise who suggested that all Maryland locations may no
longer be in operation. The Court then obtained the name and telephone number of the General
Manager of MY Transportation's
Baltimore location and left multiple voicemails that he should
contact the Court, but never received a response,
On August 12, 2016, the Court sent a letter to Hawkins, informing her that she might be
entitled to seek default judgment and instructing her to advise the Court if she would like for the
Court to appoint an attorney to assist her with this process. Hawkins requested that the Court
appoint an attorney to assist her (ECF No. 17) and the Court appointed Jeremy R. Feldman,
Esquire, as counsel (ECF No. 18). Hawkins, through Feldman, subsequently filed a Motion for
Clerk's Entry of Default (ECF No. 20). The Clerk of the Court entered a Defimlt in favor of
Hawkins on November 4, 2016 (ECF No. 21), and Hawkins filed a Motion for Default Judgment
(ECF No. 22) on March 21, 2017, seeking $24,240 in back pay and compensatory damages as
well as $300,000 in punitive damages.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a), "[wJhen a party against whom a judgment
affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shovm by
affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default."
default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default
judgment; rather, that decision is left to the discretion of the court. See Baltimore Line Handling
Co. v. Brophy, 771 F. Supp. 2d 531, 540 (D. Md. 2011). The Fourth Circuit has a "strong policy
that cases be decided on the merits:' United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., II F.3d 450, 462 (4th
Cir. 1993). Nevertheless, default judgment may be appropriate where the "adversary process has
been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party." SE.C
v. Lawbaugh, 359 F. Supp. 2d
418,421 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980».
The Court takes as true the well-pleaded
in the Complaint as to
liability, but not as to damages. See Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F3d 778, 780 (4th
Cir. 200 I). In order to determine the appropriate damage award, the court may hold a hearing to
prove damages, but it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on "detailed affidavits or
documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum:' Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F. Supp. 2d 15,
17 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979»;
see also Laborers' Dist. Council Pension v. E.G.S., Inc., Civ. No. 09-3174, 20 I0 WL 1568595.
at *3 (D. Md. Apr. 16, 2010) c[O]n
default judgment, the Court may only award damages
without a hearing if the record supports the damages requested."); DirecTV Inc. v. Yancey. 2005
at *2 (W.O. Va. Dec. 12, 2005) (concluding
to support its claim for damages,
in the pleadings."
Thus, where a complaint
based on a party's
held that a default judgment
in that amount. "When a complaint
courts have generally
that may be entered
in kind from,
the plaintiff is limited to entry of a default judgment
a specific amount
costs and fees by way of uncontradicted
Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c) limits the type of judgment
In re Gene~ys Data Techs., Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th
Here, taken as true, Hawkins'
Act of 1964.2 Her allegations
of Title VII of the Civil Rights
that she was treated differently
on the part of MV
than her male colleagues
she was constructively
the Court finds that Hawkins
a valid claim for sex discrimination
of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act, 42 U.S.c.
, "It is well settled that a person alleging claims under Title VII must file a lawsuit within 90 days of
receipt of the notice of right to sue." Kramcr ••.Bd. ofEduc. of Baltimore Cty., 788 F. Supp. 2d 421. 424
(D. Md. 201 I). See 42 U.S.C. S 2000c-5(t)( I). Here, Hawkins filed a charge of discrimination with the
EEOC in 2014. Although the EEOC was unable to conclude that a violation occurred, it issucd Hawkins a
right to sue letter on April 24, 2015. Hawkins had 90 days from the date she rcceived the letter to tile suit
in federal court. Assuming Hawkins received the EEOC letter the day after it was mailed, she had until
July 24, 2015 to file suit. Hawkins filed hcr Complaint on July 24, 2015. Accordingly, her filing was
In her Motion
for Default Judgment,
In back pay and
compensatory damages as well as $300,000 in punitive damages.
Because her Complaint demands a specific amount of damages, the Court cannot award
damages beyond the $300,000 sought in the Complaint. See In re Cene;ys Dala Techs .. Inc., 204
F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir.2000). At the same time, Hawkins has not presented sufficient evidence to
support her claim for punitive damages in an amount as high as $300,000. That said, Hawkins is
entitled to back pay damages, compensation
for lost vacation days, including pre-judgment
interest, and a lesser amount of punitive damages.
A. Back Pay
"Back pay relief is authorized under Section 706(g) of Title VII. 42 U.S.C.
5(g)( I). The Supreme Court has recognized a presumption in favor of back pay awards to victims
of employment discrimination."
E.E.o.c. v. CDC Mgml .. LLC, 2010 WI. 4904440, at *4 (D.
Md. Nov. 24, 2010) (ciling Albemarle Paper Co. v. lYfoody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975)). The Fourth
Circuit has noted that "a Title VII Plaintiff is generally entitled to back pay 'as a matter of
course.'" Marlin v. Cavalier Holel Corp .. 48 F.3d 1343, 1358 (4th Cir.1995).
"To make the plaintiff whole, the award of back pay should be the difference between
what the employee would have earned had the wrongful conduct not occurred from the period of
termination to judgment, and the actual earnings during that period." Ford
Inc.. 984 F. Supp. 386, 389 (D. Md. 1997). See also 42 U.S.C.
In the present case, this amounts to what Hawkins would have earned if she still worked
at MV Transportation ($ I9 per hour for forty hours per week from March 17,2013 until the date
of judgment; i.e., 211 weeks x 40 hours per week x $19 per hour = $160,360) minus her actual
during that period ($17 per hour for forty hours per week3 from April 1,2013
date of judgment;
i.e., 209 weeks
x 40 hours x $17 per hour
B, Fringe Benefits
to back pay damages,
may also recover "lost fringe benefits such as vacation
on the basis of sex
pay and pension benefits:'
United States v. Burke, 504 U.S. 229, 239 (1992). See also Rivera v. Baccarat. Inc., 34 F. Supp.
2d 870, 876 (S.D.N. Y. 1999) ("[V]acation
in a damage
Health, C.A.6 (Mich.)
L.Ed.2d 537. The value oflost
and sick time constitute
Rasimas v. Michigan Dept. of J"fental
F.2d 614, certiorari denied 104 S.Ct. 2151, 466 U.S. 950, 80
days can be calculated
and sick days to which [plaintift1
in her subsequent
"by taking the difference
would have been entitled
jobs and multiplying
by the agreed
upon valuc of each
day of leave." Rivera, 34 F. Supp. 3d at 876.
is entitled to the value of two weeks'
worth of vacation
leave for each of
the four years that she has been at her new job (i.e., 4 years x 2 weeks x 40 hours per week x $19
per hour). This amounts
The total in back pay and lost benefits Hawkins
is entitled to is $24,320.
While Hawkins does not explicitly allege how many hours per week she works at First Transit, based
upon her calculations, the Court infers that she has continued to work 40 hours per week.
, This method of calculating back pay damages covers the two weeks that Hawkins was unemployed as
well as her $2 per hour pay cut.
5 An employee seeking back pay damages is under a duty to mitigate damages by making reasonable
efforts to find other employment, and the award may be reduced by amounts that the employee could
have earned with reasonable diligence. See Brady v. Thurston Motor Lines. inc., 753 F.2d 1269, 1273 (4th
Cir. 1985). Here, given that Hawkins obtained new employment two weeks after she was constructively
discharged, it is clear that she made such reasonable efforts. Accordingly, no reduction in award is
C. Punitive Damages
1981a(b)(I) describes the circumstances under which punitive damages are
A complaining party may recover punitive damages under this section against a
respondent (other than a government, government agency or political subdivision)
if the complaining party dcmonstrates that the respondent engaged in a
discriminatory practice or discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless
indifTerence to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.
"The Supreme Court has held that the terms 'malice' or 'reckless indifference' 'ultimately focus
on the actor's state of mind.'
when a person
discriminates 'in the face of a perceived risk that [his 1 actions will violate federal law.'" Cloud \'.
C.C.A. In/'I, Inc, 2006 WL 2189698, at *5 (D. Md. Aug. I. 2006) (quoting Kolstad \'. Am. Den/al
Ass'n. 527 U.S.526, 535-536 (1999)). "The Supreme Court further held that 'while egregious
misconduct is evidence of the requisite mental state,
1981a does not limit plaintifTs to this form
and this section does not require a showing
discrimination independent of the employer's state of mind.''' Id.
The Fourth Circuit has explained the punitive damages standard set forth in Kolstad as
When an employee has discriminated in the face of a known risk that his conduct
will violate federal law, an employer may be held vicariously liable for
a punitive damage award in a Title VII case for the intentionally discriminatory
conduct of its employee, where the employee served the employer in a managerial
capacity [and] committed the intentional discrimination at issue while acting in
the scope of employment, and the employer did not engage in good-faith efTorts to
comply with Title VII.
Lowery \'. Circllit City Stores, Inc., 206 F.3d 431, 442 (4th Cir.2000).
Here, Hawkins has demonstrated that MV Transportation discriminated against her with
reckless indifference, if not intentionally, as to her federally protected rights. She made several
complaints to MV Transportation employees serving in managerial roles. She first complained to
her direct supervisor, Hendricks-the
employee who perpetrated the discriminatory conduct-
and later complained to two managers in the Human Resources Department. Each and everyone
of these employees totally ignored Hawkins' complaints and did nothing to protect her rights.
These managers, while acting within the scope of their employment, turned blind eyes to the
acted with reckless indifference to Hawkins'
E.E.0.c. v. Crowder Constr., Inc., 2001 WL 1750843, at *15 (W.D.N.C.
Oct. 26, 2001);
v. Lama Linda Del'.. Inc., 183 F.3d 782, 785 (8th Cir. 1999) (concluding that
defendant acted with reckless indifference when their employees "repeatedly ignored detailed
and graphic complaints about [the] harassment"); Howard
Cir. 1998) (summarizing the holding of Kimzey
Cir. 1997), stating that "[m]anagement's
Burns Bros., 149 F.3d 835, 844 (8th
Waf-Mart Stores. Inc., 107 F.3d 568, 576 (8th
practice oftuming a blind eye to repeated complaints of
misconduct was sufficient to demonstrate 'reckless indifference""); E.E.0. C. v. Caterpillar fnc.,
503 F. Supp. 2d 995, 1049 (N.D. Ill. 2007) ("Evidence that an employer refused to remedy or
ignored complaints of harassment can establish an employer's
lack of a good-faith effort to
comply with Title VI!.").
The Court, however, finds Hawkins' request for $300,000 in punitive damages excessive.
Rather, the nature of MV Transportation's
actions justifies an award of punitive damages in the
amount of an additional $48,640.
The Court explains.
In order to calculate an appropriate punitive damage award, the Court has looked to the
treble damage formula of the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Emp!.,
3-401 el seq., which applies to cases in which a court determines that "an employer withheld the
wage of an employee ... not as a result of a bona fide dispute ... " See Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
3-507.2. The record demonstrates no bona fide dispute in the present case. Here, then.
the award for back pay and compensatory damages totals $24,320 which, when multiplied by
three. comes to $72,960.
the Court awards
the amount awarded for back pay and compensatory
Hawkins' total award, before pre- and post-judgment
damages. That makes
interest, $72.960. The punitive damage
award remains below the statutory cap imposed by 42 U.S.c.
1981a(b)(3), which limits the
recovery for punitive damages to $300.000 for a defendant that has more than 500 employees.
D. I're-Judgment Interest
Hawkins seeks pre-judgment interest as part of the back pay remedy. "Consistent with
Title VII's purpose of making victims of discrimination whole, the Court has the discretion to
award prejudgment interest on any back pay award." Ford v. Rigidply Raflers. Inc., 984 F. Supp.
386,391 (D. Md. 1997) (citing Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975)). See also
Loefller v. Frank, 486 U.S. 549, 557, 108 S. Ct. 1965, 1970, 100 L. Ed. 2d 549 (1988) ("Title
VII authorizes prejudgment
interest as part of the backpay remedy in suits against private
"While not bound by state law, the court may choose to apply the interest rate
provided for by state law." Hylind v. Xerox Corp., 749 F. Supp. 2d 340. 351 (D. Md. 2010), aJf'd
in parI, rev'd in parI and remanded, 481 F. App'x 819 (4th Cir. 2012) (upholding application of
Virginia pre-judgment interest rate) (citing Quesinberry v. Life. Ins. Co. of N. Am .. 987 F.2d
1017,1031 (4th Cir.1993). The legal rate of interest in Maryland is 6% per annum. Md. Const.
art. 1lI, S 57. In light of the purpose of Title VII, courts compound the interest annually instead of
and the equities
Hylind, 749 F. Supp. 2d at 351.
the Court will award annually
of 6% on the $24,320 back pay and compensatory
interest at the rate
E. Post-.Judgment Interest
Hawkins also seeks post-judgment
the Court. "Interest
shall be allowed
district court." 28 U.S.c.
interest on any award of monetary
on any monetary
in a civil case recovered
the Court will award post-judgment
interest at the
rate on the entire monetary judgment.
Because compound interest calculations can get complicated, the Court will calculate the pre-judgment
interest on the back pay and compensatory damages award as if the full amount that Hawkins would have
earned over the course of a year was awarded at the end of that year, beginning on March 17. 20 13-the
date that Hawkins was constructively discharged.
But for Hawkins' constructive discharge, from March 17,2013 to March 16,2014. she would have earned
$39.520 (52 weeks x 40 hours per week x $19 per hour). Instead, she earned $34,000 (50 weeks x 40
hours per week x $17 per hour). She would have also accrued an additional two weeks of paid vacation
over that time, which is worth $1,520 (2 weeks x 40 hours per week x $19 per hour). Accordingly, on
March 16.2014, Hawkins would have earned $7,040 more than she actually did. Over three years (from
March 16, 2014 to March 16, 2017) at 6% annually compounded interest, $7,040 amounts to 51,344.75.
From March 17,2014 to March 16,2015, Hawkins would have earned $39,520 (52 weeks x 40 hours per
week x $19 per hour). Instead, she earned $35,360 (52 weeks x 40 hours per week x $17 per hour).That
year, she would have also accrued an additional two weeks of paid vacation, worth $1,520 (2 weeks x 40
hours per week x $19 per hour). Accordingly, on March 16, 2015. Hawkins would have earned $5,680
more than she did in reality. At 6% annual compound interest. $5.680 amounts to 5702.05 over two years
(from March 16,2015 to March 16,2017).
Similarly. she would have earned $5,680 more than she did from March 17,2015 to March 16,2016. At
6% annually compounded interest this amounts to 5340.80 in one year (from March 16, 2016 to March
Altogether, then, Hawkins is entitled to $2,387.60 in pre-judgment interest.
For the foregoing reasons, Hawkins'
Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 22) is
GRANTED in the total amount of $75,347.60 against MV Transportation.
This total reflects
$18,240 in back pay, $6,080 for lost fringe benefits, $2,387.60 in pre-judgment interest, and
$48,640 in punitive damages. Post-judgment interest shall accrue at the recognized federal rate,
beginning April 7, 2017 until the judgment is satisfied. A separate Order will ISSUE.
ETER J. MESSITTE
STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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