Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Miller v. Board of Regents of University of Minnesota

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 13, 2019

SHANNON MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, Defendant.

          SHARON L. VAN DYCK, DONALD CHANCE MARK, JR., AND ANDREW T. JAMES, FAFINSKI MARK & JOHNSON, P.A.; DAN SIEGEL AND JANE BRUNNER, SEIGEL, YEE & BRUNNER, FOR PLAINTIFF.

          JEANETTE M. BAZIS AND KATHERINE M. SWENSON, GREENE ESPEL PLLP; DOUGLAS R. PETERSON AND TIMOTHY J. PRAMAS, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, FOR DEFENDANT.

          ORDER

          PATRICK J. SCHILTZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In 1998, plaintiff Shannon Miller was hired as the head coach of the women's hockey team at defendant University of Minnesota Duluth (“UMD”). After the team struggled, Miller was told that her contract would not be renewed following the 2014- 2015 school year. Miller sued UMD, asserting claims of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and retaliation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (as well as other claims, which were dismissed). A jury found that UMD had discriminated and retaliated against Miller and awarded her $744, 832 in back pay and benefits and $3, 000, 000 in other past damages.

         This matter is before the Court on Miller's motion for reinstatement or, in the alternative, front pay on her Title IX claim. (Miller is not entitled to reinstatement or front pay on her Title VII claim.[1]) For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Miller's motion in part. The Court will not order UMD to reinstate Miller, but will order UMD to pay front pay and future benefits in the amount of $461, 278.[2]

         A. Standard of Review

          “The choice between the two equitable remedies of reinstatement and front pay clearly belongs to the court.” Newhouse v. McCormick & Co., 110 F.3d 635, 643 (8th Cir. 1997). Reinstatement is the preferred remedy. Olivares v. Brentwood Indus., 822 F.3d 426, 429 (8th Cir. 2016) (“The equitable remedy of reinstatement should be the norm when practicable and possible.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)). If the court elects to award front pay in lieu of reinstatement, the amount of front pay is also for the court to determine. Newhouse, 110 F.3d at 643.

         Although reinstatement and front pay are for the Court to determine, the Court is bound by the jury's findings on issues that were properly submitted to it and may not reject or contradict those findings in making a determination as to reinstatement or front pay. Olivares, 822 F.3d at 430; Salitros v. Chrysler Corp., 306 F.3d 562, 573 (8th Cir. 2002).

         B. Reinstatement

         As noted, reinstatement is the preferred remedy. Indeed, front pay “should only be awarded in lieu of reinstatement when extraordinary circumstances render reinstatement ‘impractical or impossible.'” Mathieu v. Gopher News Co., 273 F.3d 769, 778 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Newhouse, 110 F.3d at 641)). Among the circumstances that render reinstatement impractical or impossible are the lack of an available position. Olivares, 822 F.3d at 429 (“Reinstatement may however not be possible when there are no comparable positions available.”); see also Selgas v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 104 F.3d 9, 12 (1st Cir. 1997) (front pay is an alternative remedy if reinstatement is not available because the position is occupied); Roush v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co., 10 F.3d 392, 398 (6th Cir. 1993) (reinstatement is not appropriate when it “would require displacement of a non-culpable employee”); EEOC v. Century Broad. Corp., 957 F.2d 1446, 1463 (7th Cir. 1992) (“reinstatement can reasonably be denied when someone else currently occupies the employee's former position” (citation and quotations omitted)).

         After declining to offer Miller a new contract, UMD hired Maura Crowell to replace Miller as the head coach of the women's hockey team, and Crowell remains in that position. Trial Tr. 365-66, 704-06. Neither party contends that there are any comparable positions at UMD to which Miller could be reinstated. For that reason alone, reinstatement is impractical in this case.

         In addition, given the unusual nature of Miller's former position, reinstatement would be much more disruptive than reinstatement in the more typical case involving, say, a factory worker or a flight attendant. Head coaches normally are entitled to hire their own staff, see, e.g., Trial Tr. 706-07, 1006-07, and UMD follows this practice, Trial Tr. 248-49, 339-40. Reinstating Miller would thus cause not only Crowell to lose her job, but also the members of Crowell's staff, even though all of them are innocent bystanders. In addition, there was ample testimony at trial that player recruitment depends heavily on the identity of the head coach and that uncertainty regarding the coach's tenure can hurt recruiting. Trial Tr. 77, 103-05, 118-21, 172. Crowell is now in her fourth season at UMD, and thus many of the current players were recruited by Crowell and expected that they would be coached by Crowell. Given the substantial disruption that a change in coaches would cause at this point-and given the substantial hardship that such a change would inflict on Crowell, her staff, and her players-reinstating Miller is highly impractical. Cf. Kucia v. Se. Ark. Cmty. Action Corp., 284 F.3d 944, 949 (8th Cir. 2002) (equitable remedies “should depend on the state of facts existing at the time the remedy is either granted or denied”).

         For these reasons, the Court will not order UMD to reinstate Miller.

         C. Front Pay

         “An equitable award of front pay is generally appropriate when reinstatement must be denied.” United Paperworkers Int'l Union, AFL-CIO v. Champion Int'l Corp., 81 F.3d 798, 805 (8th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must prove a basis for a front-pay award, after which the burden shifts to the defendant to disprove the plaintiff's prima facie ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.