Fowler v. Dallas Borough

Filing 58

MEMORANDUM and ORDER denying dft's 43 Motion in Limine re pltf's lost wages ; and granting 45 dft's Motion in Limine re Act 111 arbitration and award.Signed by Honorable James M. Munley on 3/29/10 (sm, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA JOHN FOWLER, : No. 3:07cv276 Plaintiff : : (Judge Munley) : : v. : : DALLAS BOROUGH, : Defendant : : :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: M E M O R AN D U M B e fo re the court are defendant's motions in limine in the instant the employment discrimination case. (Docs. 43, 45). Having been fully briefed, the m a tte rs are ripe for disposition. B a c k g ro u n d T h is case involves plaintiff's complaint that he was terminated from his p o s itio n as Chief of Police in Dallas Borough, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff joined the B o ro u g h police in 1973 and was promoted to Chief of Police in 1988. He was d is c h a rg e d from this position honorably in 2004. Plaintiff alleges that his discharge w a s motivated by discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (A D A ), 42 U.S.C. 12101, et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (A D E A ), 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq. After the close of discovery, the defendant filed a m o tio n for summary judgment, which the court denied. The court then scheduled a p re -tria l conference, the defendant filed the instant motions and the parties briefed them, bringing the case to its present posture. J u r is d ic tio n A s this case is brought pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, et seq., the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1332. ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the C o n s titu tio n , laws, or treaties of the United States."). D is c u s s io n T h e defendant filed two motions in limine. The court will address each in turn. A. Plaintiff's Lost Wages D e fe n d a n t seeks to preclude evidence and testimony concerning plaintiff's a lle g e d lost wages. Since plaintiff was awarded back pay and reinstatement by an a rb itra to r, defendant argues, he cannot recover for any back pay in the instant action a s such damages would amount to a double recovery. As such, testimony on such p a y is irrelevant and should be precluded. Plaintiff responds that defendant has not p ro vid e d him with any back pay though ordered to by the arbitrator, and thus those d a m a g e s are available and relevant to the case. In any case, plaintiff alleges that he is entitled to liquidated damages under the ADEA. Since liquidated damages are b a s e d on back pay and fringe benefits, the amount of lost wages is relevant to that e le m e n t of damages. U n d e r the Federal Rules of Evidence, "`relevant evidence' means evidence h a vin g any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the 2 determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without th e evidence." FED. R. EVID. 401. Under the ADEA, "[a]mounts owing to a person as a result of a violation of this Act shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or u n p a id overtime compensation." The ADEA utilizes "the enforcement powers, re m e d ie s , and procedures of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Potence v. H a z le to n Area Sch. Dist., 357 F.3d 366, 372 (3d Cir. 2004). Pursuant to the FLSA, "`a n y employer who violates [the FLSA] shall be liable to the employee or employees a ffe c te d in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime c o m p e n s a tio n , as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated d a m a g e s ." Id. (quoting 29 U.S.C. 216(b)). Under the ADEA, "liquidated damages s h a ll be payable only in cases of willful violations of this Act." 29 U.S.C. 626(b); D re ye r v. Arco Chemical Co., 801 F.2d 651, 656 (3d Cir. 1986). T h u s , if plaintiff can prove that defendant willfully violated the ADA, he would b e entitled to liquidated damages equal to the amount of unpaid wages and o ve rtim e . Defendant would be liable for this amount regardless of the amount of b a c k pay already awarded in the grievance proceeding. The amount of back pay o w e d the plaintiff is therefore relevant. The extent that back pay awarded by an a rb itra to r should constitute an off-set to any damages awarded in this case is an is s u e that defendant can argue at trial. An appropriate verdict form and instruction w ill guide the jury on this issue. The court will therefore deny the defendant's m o tio n . 3 B. Testimony Related to the Arbitration D e fe n d a n t seeks to exclude any evidence related to the arbitration and a rb itra to r's award in this case. Plaintiff filed a grievance after he was terminated. The arbitrator concluded that plaintiff had not proved discrimination, but found that th e discharge was without just cause and ordered reinstatement and back pay. Evidence about this arbitration is not relevant to plaintiff's claims here, defendant a rg u e s , and would serve only to cause unfair prejudice. Plaintiff responds that one o f the issues for trial is whether plaintiff was a qualified individual with a disability. The arbitrator's report, which concludes that plaintiff had not been terminated for c a u s e , is evidence relevant to the question of whether plaintiff could perform his job a n d thus to the question of whether plaintiff can make out a prima facie case on his d is a b ility claim. T h e court agrees with the defendant. Plaintiff raises a claim pursuant to the A D A . To make out a prima facie case under the ADA, a plaintiff must show 1) he is a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA; 2) he is otherwise qualified to p e rfo rm the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable a c c o m m o d a tio n s by the employer; and 3) he has suffered an otherwise adverse e m p lo ym e n t decision as a result of discrimination. Shiring v. Runyon, 90 F.3d 827, 8 3 1 (3d Cir. 1996). Thus, the jury will likely have to examine much the same e vid e n c e used by the arbitrator in making its decision. The opinion of this arbitrator, h o w e ve r, and any argument about the issues he decided, however, are not relevant 4 to the legal questions in this case. That argument and opinion do not make it more o r less likely that plaintiff suffered discrimination on the basis of the ADA or the A D E A . Indeed, to the extent that the arbitrator offered an opinion on defendant's a lle g e d discrimination and plaintiff's alleged physical condition, such an opinion w o u ld serve only to confuse the jury and prejudice the case. The court will therefore g ra n t the motion in limine. C o n c lu s io n F o r the reasons stated above, the court will deny the defendant's motion to p re c lu d e evidence on back pay and grant the defendant's motion to preclude e vid e n c e on the arbitrator's award in this case. An appropriate order follows. 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA JOHN FOWLER, : No. 3:07cv276 Plaintiff : : (Judge Munley) : : v. : : DALLAS BOROUGH, : Defendant : : :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ORDER AN D NOW, to wit, this 29th day of March 2010, the defendant's motion in lim in e to preclude evidence and testimony relating to plaintiff's lost wages (Doc. 43) is hereby DENIED. Defendant's motion to preclude evidence and testimony related to the Act 111 arbitration and award (Doc. 45) is hereby GRANTED. BY THE COURT: s / James M. Munley JUDGE JAMES M. MUNLEY U N IT E D STATES DISTRICT COURT 6

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