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Witherspoon v. City of Waukegan

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 22, 2012

Michael WITHERSPOON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WAUKEGAN, Defendant.

Page 580

Roma Jones Stewart, Attorney at Law, Stephen Stern, Law Office of Stephen Stern, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Nicole K. Peracke, Yvette Anayis Heintzelman, Karen Lynne Stephenson, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago, IL, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RONALD A. GUZMÁN, District Judge.

Michael Witherspoon sued the City of Waukegan for race discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. A jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant on Witherspoon's discrimination claim and in favor of Witherspoon on his retaliation claim and awarded him $10,000.00 in compensatory damages. Before the Court is plaintiff's request for equitable relief. When plaintiff seeks both legal and equitable relief, " the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial requires tat the legal claims be tried first, to a jury." Ohio-Sealy Mattress Mfg. Co. v. Sealy, Inc., 585 F.2d 821, 844 (7th Cir.1978) (citing Beacon Theatres v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 79 S.Ct. 948, 3 L.Ed.2d 988 (1959)).

After a trial on the legal issues, any issues necessarily and actually decided by the jury are foreclosed under settled principles of collateral estoppel from subsequent reconsideration by the district court. The court may not make findings " contrary to or inconsistent with the jury's resolution ... of that same issue as implicitly reflected in its general verdict ... on the damages claim."

Id. (quotation and alterations omitted). In deciding whether equitable relief is appropriate the Court may make its own factual findings as long as they are not inconsistent with the jury verdict. Miles v. State of Indiana, 387 F.3d 591, 599 (7th Cir.2004).

The jury found defendant retaliated against plaintiff in one or more of the following ways:

-sending Plaintiff home on August 17, 2005;
-assigning Plaintiff menial tasks;
-making Plaintiff wear a uniform;
-requiring Plaintiff to obtain a commercial driver's license (" CDL" )

Page 581

But defendant argues that these retaliation charges do not form the basis for an award of back pay or front pay. While the jury was certainly entitled to infer that assigning plaintiff menial tasks and/or requiring him to wear a uniform was no more than harassment imposed purely as retaliation for his complaint of discrimination, such retaliatory acts did not result in a demotion or a change in hours worked or in any other loss of income or even income-producing opportunities. Looked at in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, there is no evidence sufficient to warrant an inference that wearing a uniform or doing menial tasks caused plaintiff to suffer economic injury. Taylor v. Philips Indus., 593 F.2d 783, 786 (7th Cir.1979). Thus, while plaintiff is certainly entitled to compensatory damages for any such retaliatory acts, there is no basis for imposing back pay or front pay awards. A monetary award for lost income is not needed to place ...


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