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FARINA v. CICCONE FOOD PRODUCTS

December 15, 2005.

KATHY FARINA, ROSANNA GELARDI and ADDOLORATA CUPOLA, Plaintiffs,
v.
CICCONE FOOD PRODUCTS, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief, Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and case expenses, and on Defendant Ciccone Food, Inc.'s ("Ciccone Food") motion for attorneys' fees. For the reasons stated below, we deny Plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief, grant in part Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and grant Plaintiffs' request for related expenses. We deny Ciccone Food's motion for attorneys' fees.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint in the instant action alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. A jury trial was held and the jury returned a verdict finding for Plaintiffs on their hostile work environment claims and finding for Ciccone Foods on the gender discrimination claims. Plaintiffs now seek attorneys' fees, related expenses, and injunctive relief. Ciccone Food seeks attorneys' fees.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Title VII provides for injunctive relief, stating that "[i]f the court finds that the respondent has intentionally engaged in or is intentionally engaging in an unlawful employment practice charged in the complaint, the court may enjoin the respondent from engaging in such unlawful employment practice, and order such affirmative action as may be appropriate . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g). Pursuant to section 2000e-5(k) of Title VII, "[i]n any action or proceeding under this subchapter the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee (including expert fees) as part of the costs. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).

  DISCUSSION

  I. Motion for Injunctive Relief

  Plaintiffs move for injunctive relief based upon 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g) and the verdict in their favor in this action on their hostile work environment claims. Plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin Ciccone Food from causing or encouraging future unlawful harassment or retaliation based on its employees' gender. Plaintiffs also ask that the court order Ciccone Food to retain the services of a qualified Title VII compliance officer and that Ciccone Food establish, under the supervision of the officer, a sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation policy.

  Once a violation of Title VII has been found, courts have wide discretion in fashioning injunctive relief. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. v. Gurnee Inn Corp., 914 F.2d 815, 817 (7th Cir. 1990). To obtain an injunction, a plaintiff need not prove that the defendant employer has engaged or is engaging in a pattern or practice of unlawful employment practices. Bruso v. United Airlines, Inc., 239 F.3d 848, 864 (7th Cir. 2001). In determining whether injunctive relief is appropriate in a particular case, the court should look to the likelihood that the unlawful employment practice will continue in the future, which involves assessing whether the individuals responsible for the harassment are still employed by the defendant. Id.

  In the instant action, there were only two individuals that perpetrated the harassment. This is not a case where an entire supervisory body in a company engaged in systematic harassment that would require future injunctive relief to fully remedy the problem. Both of the harassers in this case, Joseph Minerva ("Minerva") and Sal Ciccone, are still employed by Ciccone Food. However, Minerva is no longer the general manager and is now only a salesperson at Ciccone Food. Thus, Minerva lacks supervisory authority over employees, which means he no longer has the sense of security and power of intimidation that he once had when he was engaging in harassment in the past. Employed as a salesperson, there is no reason to presume that Minerva would engage in the same outrageous behavior as before. In the future, a salesperson at Ciccone Food, for example, would be more likely to complain about harassment from another salesperson than about the harassment from the general manager of the company, who is the second in command at the company. Minerva's conduct has also cost his employer, Ciccone Food, a significant amount of money in terms of litigation costs and the monetary awards at trial and, thus, Minerva has every reason to attempt to avoid causing such future losses to his employer.

  Sal Ciccone is the President of Ciccone Food and, based upon his testimony at trial regarding the stress he suffered from the instant action, the verdict against his company, and the accompanying monetary awards, it is likely that Sal Ciccone will refrain from all harassing behavior in order to avoid future pitfalls for his company. The evidence presented at trial also indicates that Sal Ciccone will ensure that a proper sexual harassment policy and reporting system are maintained at Ciccone Food. Plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin Ciccone Food from violating Title VII and to order Ciccone Food to establish a sexual harassment policy, but such measures would warrant an extended involvement by the court in the affairs and operations of Ciccone Food. Plaintiffs have not shown that there are compelling circumstances to warrant the additional expenditure of court resources for such a purpose. If Ciccone Food violates Title VII in the future, there is nothing that prohibits its remaining employees from bringing another suit based upon those violations.

  Finally, none of the three Plaintiffs whose harassment formed the basis of the instant action remain employed at Ciccone Food. The trial mainly focused upon conduct directed at the Plaintiffs, and there was no specific finding by the jury regarding whether there was a company-wide hostile work environment for all female employees. We cannot presume that all female employees were harassed by Minerva and Sal Ciccone. The only individuals that were shown to be harassed at trial are no longer employed ...


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