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9 PJI 4.3 | Third Circuit (US)
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9 PJI 4.3 | ADA | BACK PAY — FOR ADVISORY OR STIPULATED JURY

If you find that [defendant] has violated [plaintiff’s] rights under the ADA, 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 may 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 conduct].

[[Alternative One – for use when plaintiff does not seek back pay from periods earlier than the date that the unlawful employment practice occurred within the charge filing period:]

Back pay damages, if any, apply from the time [plaintiff] was [describe employment action] until the date of your verdict. [However, federal law limits a plaintiff’s recovery for back pay to a maximum of a two year period before the plaintiff filed [his/her] discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Therefore the back pay award in this case must be determined only for the period between [specify dates]].]

[[Alternative Two – for use when plaintiff alleging pay discrimination seeks back pay from periods earlier than the date that the unlawful employment practice occurred within the charge filing period but starting two years or less before the filing of the charge:]

In this case, [plaintiff] claims that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] [plaintiff] on [date within the charge filing period]. [Plaintiff] also claims that [defendant] committed a similar or related unlawful employment practice with regard to discrimination in compensation on [date outside charge filing period but two years or less before the filing of the charge (hereafter “prior date”)]. If you find that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], and that [defendant] committed unlawful pay discrimination with respect to [plaintiff] on [prior date], and that the unlawful employment practice, if any, on [prior date] was similar or related to [defendant’s] [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], then back pay damages, if any, apply from [prior date] until the date of your verdict. If you find that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], but you do not find that [defendant] committed a similar or related unlawful employment practice with regard to discrimination in compensation on [prior date], then back pay damages, if any, apply from [date within the charge filing period] until the date of your verdict.]

[[Alternative Three – for use when plaintiff alleging pay discrimination seeks back pay from periods earlier than the date that the unlawful employment practice occurred within the charge filing period based on an act more than two years before the filing of the charge:]

In this case, [plaintiff] claims that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] [plaintiff] on [date within the charge filing period]. [Plaintiff] also claims that [defendant] committed a similar or related unlawful employment practice with regard to discrimination in compensation on [date outside charge filing period and more than two years before the filing of the charge (hereafter “prior date”)]. If you find that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], and that [defendant] committed unlawful pay discrimination with respect to [plaintiff] on [prior date], and that the unlawful employment practice, if any, on [prior date] was similar or related to [defendant’s] [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], then back pay damages, if any, apply from [date two years prior to filing date of charge (hereafter “two-year date”)] until the date of your verdict. In that case, back pay applies from [two-year date] rather than [prior date] because federal law limits a plaintiff’s recovery for back pay to a maximum of a two year period before the plaintiff filed [his/her] discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you find that [defendant] intentionally discriminated against [plaintiff] in [describe employment action] on [date within the charge filing period], but you do not find that [defendant] committed a similar or related unlawful employment practice with regard to discrimination in compensation on [prior date], then back pay damages, if any, apply from [date within the charge filing period] 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.]

[Add the following instruction if defendant 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 it discovered after it made the employment decision. Specifically, [defendant] claims that when it became aware of the [describe the after-discovered misconduct], it 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. ]

COMMENT ADA remedies are the same as provided in Title VII. The enforcement provision of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12117, specifically provides for the same recovery in ADA actions as in Title VII actions: “The powers, remedies and procedures set forth in... [42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, the Title VII remedies provision] shall be the powers, remedies and procedures this title provides to... any person alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of any provision of this Act... concerning employment.” Accordingly, this instruction on back pay is substantively identical to that provided for Title VII actions. See Instruction 5.4.3.

An award of back pay is an equitable remedy; thus there is no right to jury trial on a claim for back pay. See 42 U.S.C. §1981(b)(2) (“Compensatory damages awarded under this section shall not include backpay, interest on backpay, or any other type of relief authorized under section 706(g) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 USCS § 2000e5(g)].”); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1) (“If 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, which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay... or any other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.”). See also Spencer v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 469 F.3d 311, 316 (3d Cir. 2006) (relying on the statutory language of Title VII, which applies to damages recovery under the ADA, the court holds in an ADA action that “back pay remains an equitable remedy to be awarded within the discretion of the court”). “[A] district court may, pursuant to its broad equitable powers granted by the ADA, award a prevailing employee an additional sum of money to compensate for the increased tax burden a back pay award may create.” Eshelman v. Agere Systems, Inc., 554 F.3d 426, 441-42 (3d Cir. 2009).

An instruction on back pay is nonetheless included because the parties or the court may wish to empanel an advisory jury — especially given the fact that in most cases the plaintiff will be seeking compensatory damages and the jury will be sitting anyway. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 39(c). Alternatively, the parties may agree to a jury determination on back pay, in which case this instruction would also be appropriate. In many cases it is commonplace for back pay issues to be submitted to the jury. The court may think it prudent to consult with counsel on whether the issues of back pay or front pay should be submitted to the jury (on either an advisory or stipulated basis) or are to be left to the court’s determination without reference to the jury. Instruction 5.4.1, on compensatory damages, instructs the jury in such cases to provide separate awards for compensatory damages, back pay, and front pay.

The appropriate standard for measuring a back pay award is “to take the difference between the actual wages earned and the wages the individual would have earned in the position that, but for discrimination, the individual would have attained.” Gunby v. Pennsylvania Elec. Co., 840 F.2d 1108, 1119-20 (3d Cir. 1988).

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1) provides that “[b]ack pay liability shall not accrue from a date more than two years prior to the filing of a charge with the Commission.” The court of appeals has explained that “[t]his constitutes a limit on liability, not a statute of limitations, and has been interpreted as a cap on the amount of back pay that may be awarded under Title VII.” Bereda v. Pickering Creek Indus. Park, Inc., 865 F.2d 49, 54 (3d Cir. 1989). The Bereda court held that it was plain error to fail to instruct the jury on an analogous cap under Pennsylvania law (which set the relevant limit under the circumstances of the case). See id. Accordingly, when the facts of the case make Section 2000e-5's cap relevant, the court should instruct the jury on it.

Section 2000e-5's current framework for computing a back pay award for Title VII pay discrimination claims reflects Congress’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). The effect of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (LLFPA), Pub. L. No. 111-2, § 2, January 29, 2009, 123 Stat. 5, which amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e), is discussed in 5.4.3.

In Craig v. Y & Y Snacks, Inc., 721 F.2d 77, 82 (3d Cir. 1983), the court held that unemployment benefits should not be deducted from a back pay award. That holding is reflected in the instruction.

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.

(Last Updated July 2019)

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