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PRICE v. INTERSTATE WAREHOUSING

May 19, 1999

STEPHEN PRICE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERSTATE WAREHOUSING, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On April 19, 1999, a jury returned a $20,000 verdict in favor of Plaintiff, Stephen Price ("Price"), and against Defendant, Interstate Warehousing, Inc., ("Interstate"), for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. The case is now before the Court on the issues of back pay, prejudgment interest and front pay.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS

Price was employed by Interstate as a warehouse worker from October 31, 1994 through November 29, 1995, when he was terminated. Price was a good worker and received a positive ninety-day review and raise on January 31, 1995. After a second raise on August 6, 1995, along with all other warehouse workers, he was making $9.50 per hour.

Price suffered a heart attack on September 1, 1995, and was placed on medical leave for twelve weeks. On November 20, 1995, Price's doctor gave him a letter stating that he could return to work; however, he could not lift more than 20 pounds. Following a meeting between Price and Interstate's Director of Human Resources, Interstate terminated Price effective November 29, 1995; and notified him via's telephone call and confirming letter.

Price retained counsel, who sent state a letter dated December 14, 1995 requesting reinstatement. Interstate did reconsider the matter by having Price examined by its company doctor, having him submit to a functional capacity assessment and retaining a consultant to perform a job site analysis. On April 29, 1996, Interstate wrote to Price and offered to reinstate him on the condition he obtain a letter from his doctor releasing him to return to work without any restriction.

In the meantime, in January 1996, Price took a job as a janitor with Heritage Inn Best-Western in the St. Louis area. He has continued to reside in the St. Louis area. In February 1996, he left Best-Western and began work at Datastor, Inc. (now Pierce Leahy Corporation). At about the same time, he also began working for Schnuck's Food Market. At the time of trial, Plaintiff was earning $8.50 per hour at Pierce-Leahy Corporation for 40 hours per week and $7.75 per hour at Schnuck's Food Market for 32 hours per week. At the time of trial, a warehouse worker at Interstate was earning $11.50 per hour.

The jury found Interstate violated the ADA and awarded Price $20,000 in compensatory damages and no punitive damages. The issues of back pay and front pay were left to the Court. During the trial, the Court heard additional evidence and arguments on these issues outside the presence of the jury.

II. BACK PAY

Title VII remedies apply to ADA cases. See 42 U.S.C. § 12117 (a). In the event the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff, the parties agreed a full back pay award would include $1,801.48 for Cobra insurance paid for by Price, $200 in job search costs and $21,420.75 in back pay. The only disputed issue was whether Price's back pay should be cut off by reason of Interstate's letter of April 29, 1996. If so, Price's back pay award would be reduced to $13,702.

Interstate relies upon Ford Motor Company v. EEOC, 458 U.S. 219, 102 S.Ct. 3057, 73 L.Ed.2d 721 (1982). In Ford, the Court held an employer can toll the accrual of back pay liability by unconditionally offering claimant the job, thereby providing claimant the opportunity to minimize damages. 458 U.S. at 232, 102 S.Ct. at 3066. The Ford decision is distinguishable because the offer to Price was conditioned upon returning to work with no weight lifting restriction. Accordingly, Price is awarded fullback pay as follows:

Cobra Premiums      $1,801.48
Job Search Costs        ...

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