8 PJI 4.2 | ADEA | BACK PAY
If you find that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] [plaintiff], then you must determine the amount of damages that [defendant's] actions have caused [plaintiff]. [Plaintiff] has the burden of proving damages by a preponderance of the evidence.
You must award as actual damages an amount that reasonably compensates [plaintiff] for any lost wages and benefits, taking into consideration any increases in salary and benefits, including pension, that [plaintiff] would have received from [defendant] had [plaintiff] not been the subject of [defendant’s] intentional discrimination.
Back pay damages, if any, apply from the time [plaintiff] was [describe adverse employment action] until the date of your verdict.
You must reduce any award by the amount of the expenses that [plaintiff] would have incurred in making those earnings.
If you award back pay, you are instructed to deduct from the back pay figure whatever wages [plaintiff] has obtained from other employment during this period. However, please note that you should not deduct social security benefits, unemployment compensation and pension benefits from an award of back pay.
[You are further instructed that [plaintiff] has a duty to mitigate [his/her] damages -- that is [plaintiff] is required to make reasonable efforts under the circumstances to reduce [his/her] damages. It is [defendant's] burden to prove that [plaintiff] has failed to mitigate. So if [defendant] persuades you, by a preponderance of the evidence, that [plaintiff] failed to obtain substantially equivalent job opportunities that were reasonably available to [him/ her], you must reduce the award of damages by the amount of the wages that [plaintiff] reasonably would have earned if [he/she] had obtained those opportunities.]
[In assessing damages, you must not consider attorney fees or the costs of litigating this case. Attorney fees and costs, if relevant at all, are for the court and not the jury to determine. Therefore, attorney fees and costs should play no part in your calculation of any damages.]
[Add the following instruction if the employer claims “after-acquired evidence” of misconduct by the plaintiff:
[Defendant] contends that it would have made the same decision to [describe employment decision] [plaintiff] because of conduct that [defendant] discovered after it made the employment decision. Specifically, [defendant] claims that when it became aware of the [describe the after-discovered misconduct], [defendant] would have made the decision at that point had it not been made previously.
If [defendant] proves by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have made the same decision and would have [describe employment decision] [plaintiff] because of [describe after-discovered evidence], you must limit any award of back pay to the date [defendant] would have made the decision to [describe employment decision] [plaintiff] as a result of the after-acquired information.]
Back pay awards are mandatory under the ADEA after a finding of discrimination; the ADEA incorporates damages provisions from the Fair Labor Standards Act providing that back pay “shall” be awarded. Accordingly, while back pay is an equitable remedy under some statutes (such as Title VII), back pay is a damages remedy under the ADEA, and therefore the parties have a right to a jury trial on questions of back pay. See Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 584 (1978) (noting that the ADEA incorporates the FLSA provision that employers "shall be liable" for amounts deemed unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation, while under Title VII, the availability of backpay is a matter of equitable discretion, and holding that in a private action under the ADEA a trial by jury is available where sought by one of the parties); Anastasio v. Schering Corp., 838 F.2d 701 (3d Cir. 1988) (distinguishing the ADEA, where back pay is a mandatory element of damages, from the discretionary back pay remedy in Title VII).
In McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352, 362 (1995), the Court held that if an employer discharges an employee for a discriminatory reason, later-discovered evidence that the employer could have used to discharge the employee for a legitimate reason does not immunize the employer from liability. However, the employer in such a circumstance does not have to offer reinstatement or front pay and only has to provide back pay "from the date of the unlawful discharge to the date the new information was discovered." 513 U.S. at 362. See also Mardell v. Harleysville Life Ins. Co., 65 F.3d 1072, 1073 (3d Cir. 1995) (stating that “after-acquired evidence may be used to limit the remedies available to a plaintiff where the employer can first establish that the wrongdoing was of such severity that the employee in fact would have been terminated on those grounds alone if the employer had known of it at the time of the discharge.”). Both McKennon and Mardell observe that the defendant has the burden of showing that it would have made the same employment decision when it became aware of the post-decision evidence of the employee’s misconduct.
Under the ADEA, collateral benefits such as unemployment compensation, pension benefits and social security benefits are not to be deducted from a back pay award. Berndt v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc., 789 F.2d 253 (3d Cir. 1986) (unemployment compensation is not to be deducted from a back pay award in an ADEA action); Maxfield v. Sinclair Int’l, 766 F.2d 788 (3d Cir. 1985) (social security benefits cannot be offset as an award of backpay is a mandatory element of damages under the ADEA). In contrast, courts have held that the ADEA does require interim earnings to be deducted from back pay awards. Id. The instruction reflects these legal standards.
Attorney Fees and Costs
There appears to be no uniform practice regarding the use of an instruction that warns the jury against speculation on attorney fees and costs. In Collins v. Alco Parking Corp., 448 F.3d 652 (3d Cir. 2006), the district court gave the following instruction: “You are instructed that if plaintiff wins on his claim, he may be entitled to an award of attorney fees and costs over and above what you award as damages. It is my duty to decide whether to award attorney fees and costs, and if so, how much. Therefore, attorney fees and costs should play no part in your calculation of any damages.” Id. at 656-57. The Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff had not properly objected to the instruction, and, reviewing for plain error, found none: “We need not and do not decide now whether a district court commits error by informing a jury about the availability of attorney fees in an ADEA case. Assuming arguendo that an error occurred, such error is not plain, for two reasons.” Id. at 657. First, “it is not ‘obvious’ or ‘plain’ that an instruction directing the jury not to consider attorney fees” is irrelevant or prejudicial; “it is at least arguable that a jury tasked with computing damages might, absent information that the Court has discretion to award attorney fees at a later stage, seek to compensate a sympathetic plaintiff for the expense of litigation.” Id. Second, it is implausible “that the jury, in order to eliminate the chance that Collins might be awarded attorney fees, took the disproportionate step of returning a verdict against him even though it believed he was the victim of age discrimination, notwithstanding the District Court's clear instructions to the contrary.” Id.; see also id. at 658 (distinguishing Fisher v. City of Memphis, 234 F.3d 312, 319 (6th Cir. 2000), and Brooks v. Cook, 938 F.2d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 1991)).
(Last Updated July 2019)