Monday, January 05, 2004

Judge Turk's ruling for employer reversed in Title VII retaliation case

In Lauer v. The Schewel Furniture Company, Inc., the Fourth Circuit in a per curiam opinion for the panel of Chief Judge Wilkins and Judges Traxler and Duncan reversed Judge Turk's decision to grant the motion for judgment as a matter of law of the defendant employer on the plaintiff's claims of employment discrimination, after the jury had found for the plaintiff on her retaliatory discharge claim and awarded $20,000 in compensatory damages. Incredibly, there is not a single reference to the Reeves case in this opinion, unlike the Hill v. Lockheed Martin case decided on the same day. Does Reeves not apply in retaliation cases? If Reeves applied, would the Court have to consider whether the evidence of pretext was enough to support a verdict for the plaintiff?

Also, Judge Turk ruled that if he was reversed on the merits, there should be a new trial rather than judgment on the verdict. The court of appeals agreed that this ruling was within the bounds of what was proper, and remanded the case for a new trial. So, the plaintiff still gets no money, not even the option of a remittitur - but, maybe on the next trial, the jury will get fired up and award a few more dollars.

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