International Union, UAW, et al. v. General Motors LLC
OPINION and ORDER Granting Front Pay Damages. Signed by District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III. (DPar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED
AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND
WORKERS OF AMERICA (UAW), and its
Case No. 2:10-cv-14899
HONORABLE STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
GENERAL MOTORS LLC,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING FRONT PAY DAMAGES
A jury found Defendant liable under a collective bargaining agreement for laying off
and failing to recall three former employees: Gerald Bosman, Linda Chapman, and Ovidiu
Kowalski. ECF 95. The jury was not charged with determining damages because the
parties agreed to leave the issue of damages to the Court. ECF 108, PgID 2354–57. The
parties ultimately stipulated to damages for lost wages, benefits, and overtime. ECF 120.
The Plaintiffs additionally requested reinstatement, which the Court denied. Id. Plaintiffs
sought front pay as an alternative. Id. The Court referred the issue of front pay to
mediation, but the parties did not reach an agreement.1 ECF 122; ECF 123. The Court will
now address whether front pay is an appropriate remedy, and if so, what is the proper
The Court also ordered mediation prior to trial, but the parties were not able to reach
an agreement. It appears the parties simply cannot agree as to the amount of lost wages
to which the employees were entitled and the Court must therefore decide the issue.
Plaintiffs only seek front pay for Bosman and Kowalski at this time. ECF 124, PgID
When an employer breaches a collective bargaining agreement, the Court’s primary
goal is to make the injured employee whole. Wilson v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs,
Warehousemen & Helpers of Am., AFL-CIO, 83 F.3d 747, 756 (6th Cir. 1996). The Court
has broad discretion to achieve the goal. Id. Front pay is an available remedy when, as
here, reinstatement is inappropriate or infeasible. Suggs v. ServiceMaster Educ. Food
Mgmt., 72 F.3d 1228, 1234 (6th Cir. 1996). Any award is not mandatory, but rather, is left
to the discretion of the Court. Arban v. West Pub. Corp., 345 F.3d 390, 406 (6th Cir. 2003);
Wilson, 83 F.3d at 756; Suggs, 72 F.3d at 1237.
When front pay is an appropriate remedy, the Court must make an award that is
reasonably specific as to duration and amount. Suggs, 72 F.3d at 1235. The following
factors are relevant: (1) the employee's future in the position from which he was terminated;
(2) the employee's work and life expectancy; (3) the employee's obligation to mitigate
damages; (4) the availability of comparable employment opportunities and the time
reasonably required to find substitute employment; (5) the present value of future damages;
and (6) other factors that are pertinent in prospective damage awards. Id. at 1234.
Front Pay is an Appropriate Remedy
Front pay is an appropriate remedy here. The Court is bound by the jury's
determination that Defendant breached the collective bargaining agreement. ECF 95. The
Court therefore must put Bosman and Kowalski in the positions they would be in absent the
breach. Bosman and Kowalski have found new jobs, but they receive less compensation.
ECF 104, PgID 2029, 2079–80; ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. Employees work to earn wages.
And to be made whole, Bosman and Kowalski must be awarded their lost income for each
year that they would have worked for Defendant absent the breach.
After observing the trial and examining the record, the Court finds that Bosman and
Kowalski would have worked for Defendant until retirement. Defendant has a demand for
these workers; the record shows that Defendant hired workers in Bosman's and Kowalski’s
department since the layoff at issue here. ECF 105, PgID 2222, 2225–26. And Bosman
and Kowalski are capable of filling the demand. Although they were not the most technically
competent employees, they were good, hardworking men that arrived on time and did as
they were told. Those facts are evident from their continuous employment of 10 years with
no disciplinary issues. ECF 104, PgID 2005, 2084; ECF 105, PgID 2207. Moreover, a
seniority list shows that an employee working in Bosman's and Kowalski's former
department usually works until retirement. ECF 124-8.
Given a factual finding that Bosman and Kowalski would have worked for Defendant
until retirement, front pay is appropriate and necessary to make them whole.
Amount of Front Pay
A. Dr. Michael Thomson's Report
Plaintiffs request $589,178.00 in front pay for Bosman and $475,806.00 for Kowalski.
Plaintiffs submitted an expert report from Dr. Michael Thomson in support of the request.3
ECF 124-2. Defendant did not rebut the report or provide alternative calculations, so the
There is a discrepancy between the Plaintiffs' request and Dr. Thomson's report.
Plaintiffs request $475,806.00 in front pay for Kowalski. ECF 124, PgID 2539. Dr.
Thomson's report calculates Kowalski's lost future earnings as $520,166.00. ECF 124-2,
PgID 2545. The numbers are not similar enough to suggest a typographical error, and the
Court will therefore defer to the Plaintiffs' request. Despite the discrepancy, the request is
justified because it is lower than Dr. Thomson's finding.
Court adopts Dr. Thomson's projections. Dr. Thomson is a qualified expert with a Ph.D. in
economics from Michigan State University. ECF 124-3, PgID 2546. Plaintiffs assert that Dr.
Thomson first determined the difference between the wages Bosman and Kowalski earned
in 2016 working for their current employers relative to what they would have earned
working for Defendant. He then extended the wage loss until the time Bosman and
Kowalski would be eligible for full Social Security benefits. When calculating his extension,
Dr. Thomson applied a 4% adjustment for growth and inflation based on the price
assumptions in the 2016 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old Age
and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds. ECF 124-4, PgID
2559. Finally, Dr. Thomson reduced the amounts to present value using the calculation
provided in Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6306(2).
B. Suggs Factors
Moreover, the Plaintiffs' request is supported by the Suggs factors. Defendant only
challenges the first factor, but the Court will address each factor in turn.
1. Employees' Future in the Position
For the same reasons that front pay is appropriate here, the Court finds that, absent
Defendant's breach, Bosman and Kowalski would have worked for Defendant until
retirement. Defendant asserts that Bosman and Kowalski's novice skill level combined with
changes in their former department after the layoff suggests that the men would not have
maintained employment with Defendant until retirement. Rather, they would have been
released during the back pay period: somewhere between 2009 and 2016. But Defendant
stipulated to back pay for the relevant period and its assertion that Bosman and Kowalski
would have been terminated during the period is not adequately supported by the record.
Indeed, the record shows that Defendant had demand for labor—it added a number
of positions in Bosman and Kowalski's department after the layoff at issue—and that
Bosman and Kowalski could fill that demand since both men worked for Defendant more
than a decade without any disciplinary issues. ECF 104, PgID 2005, 2084; ECF 105, PgID
2207, 2222, 2225–26. The department has changed during the eight years since the layoff,
but Bosman and Kowalski were wrongfully denied the opportunity to change with the
department during that time. The Court will not speculate as to whether they would have
been up to the new challenges the changing department demanded.
2. Employees' Work and Life Expectancy
Bosman is 58 years old and Kowalski is 53 years old. ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. Both
are healthy and do not have any serious illnesses. Id. Their former positions with Defendant
are performed in an office setting, so workplace injures are unlikely. Id. The Court finds that
Bosman and Kowalski would have been physically able to work for Defendant until
3. Obligation to Mitigate Damages
In the midst of a "Great Recession," which significantly affected the automobile
industry, Bosman and Kowalski found jobs as contractors in the same field as their
positions with Defendant. ECF 104, PgID 2029, 2084; ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. The Court
finds that both men met their obligation to mitigate damages.
4. Availability of Comparable Employment
Bosman and Kowalski's work is not prevalent. It is limited to auto manufacturers that
design their own vehicles. ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. Both men were middle-aged when
Defendant wrongfully terminated them, making their job search more difficult. Id. The Court
finds that the availability of comparable employment, or lack thereof, cuts in favor of
5. Present Value of Future Damages
As previously discussed, Plaintiffs assert that Dr. Thomson's projections included a
present value adjustment that employs the calculation provided in Mich. Comp. Laws
6. Other Factors
One additional factor supports the Plaintiffs' request: Bosman and Kowalski now work
as contractors for Defendant performing similar tasks while earning less compensation.
ECF 104, PgID 2029, 2079–80; ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. Allowing Defendant to circumvent
the collective bargaining agreement in this way could create a perverse incentive in
For all these reasons, the Court finds that front pay is an appropriate remedy, and
grants Plaintiffs' request that Bosman receive $589,178.00 and Kowalski receive
WHEREFORE, it is hereby ORDERED that Gerald Bosman is awarded $589,178.00
in front pay damages.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Ovidiu Kowalski is awarded $475,806.00 in front pay
s/Stephen J. Murphy, III
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III
United States District Judge
Dated: August 25, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the parties
and/or counsel of record on August 25, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
s/David P. Parker
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