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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cintas Corp.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

April 29, 2015

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff,
v.
Cintas Corporation, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER REGARDING DISPUTED CASE MANAGEMENT ISSUES

SEAN F. COX UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

This is an employment discrimination action brought against Defendant Cintas Corporation (“Cintas”) by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) under Title VII. The EEOC seeks to prove unlawful sex discrimination via the “pattern-or-practice” framework, first established in International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977) (“Teamsters”). In Serrano v. Cintas Corp., 699 F.3d 884 (6th Cir. 2012), the Sixth Circuit noted that the Teamsters framework is distinct from the McDonnell Douglas framework and explained:

It charges the plaintiff with the higher initial burden of establishing “that unlawful discrimination has been a regular procedure or policy followed by an employer or a group of employers.” Teamsters, 431 U.S. at 360. Upon that showing, it is assumed “that any particular employment decision, during the period in which the discriminatory policy was in force, was made in pursuit of that policy” and, therefore, “[t]he [plaintiff] need only show that an alleged individual discriminatee unsuccessfully applied for a job.” Id. at 362. The burden then shifts to “the employer to demonstrate that the individual applicant was denied an employment opportunity for lawful reasons.” Id. “When the Government seeks individual relief for the victims of the discriminatory practice, ” bifurcation of proceedings may be proper because “a district court must usually conduct additional proceedings after the liability phase of the trial to determine the scope of individual relief.” Id. at 361.

Serrano, 699 F.3d at 893.

This Court had previously ruled that because the EEOC filed suit under § 706, and not under § 707, it could not proceed in this case under a pattern-or-practice theory. The Sixth Circuit reversed, ruling as to this issue of first impression, that the EEOC could proceed in this action under a pattern-or-practice theory even though it filed the action under § 706 alone. Serrano, 699 F.3d at 894-96.

Following remand from the Sixth Circuit, the parties agree that the trial in this case should be bifurcated into two stages, but disagree as to several issues concerning how this case should now proceed. The parties have exhaustively briefed the issues and the Court heard oral argument on March 3, 2015 and April 14, 2015. In an order issued on March 16, 2015 (D.E. No. 1124), this Court ordered the EEOC to “file a list of the names of those female applicants on whose behalf it intends to seek monetary damages in this action.” The EEOC filed that list on April 20, 2015. (D.E. No. 1131). This Court is now prepared to rule on additional case management issues.

As explained below, the Court shall order each party to file a new witness list no later than May 31, 2015. The Court shall reopen fact discovery for a period of twelve months. During that discovery period, either party may depose any witness on the opposing party’s witness list that has not been previously deposed.

In addition, counsel for the parties shall meet and confer in order to: 1) coordinate a mutually agreeable date for Scott Farmer’s deposition; and 2) discuss a mutually agreeable timetable for additional expert discovery, amended expert reports, and motion practice.

If appropriate grounds for a dispositive motion arise, Cintas may seek leave to file a dispositive motion.

This Court also concludes that, if the EEOC prevails at the Phase I Trial, the EEOC may move for equitable relief when it deems it appropriate to do so.

Finally, the Court concludes that, in this case, while the availability of punitive damages should be adjudicated at the Phase I Trial, any determination of the aggregate amount and individual distribution of punitive damages should be reserved for the Phase II Trial.

BACKGROUND

This case, along with related actions, has a very long history. Only the relevant background facts are included here.

At this point, following remand from the Sixth Circuit, all that remains is the EEOC’s Second Amended Complaint in this action, wherein it alleges that Cintas has engaged in unlawful employment practices in violation of Title VII. Specifically, the EEOC alleges that Cintas has “engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination by refusing to recruit and hire a class of females for the position of Route Sales Drivers/Service Sales Representatives” at its “facilities in Michigan because of their sex. The affected class [i.e., the group of alleged victims of the discrimination] is comprised of those females who applied at one” of Cintas’s “facilities in Michigan from 1999 to at least April 1, 2005 and were not hired to be a Route Sales Driver/Service Sales Representative.” (EEOC’s Second Am. Compl. at ¶ 7).

Following remand, both parties agree that there should be a bifurcation of proceedings. But they differ on the details as to how that bifurcation should be structured.

Summary Of The EEOC’s Position

The EEOC takes the position that little remains to be done before this case is ready to proceed to a Phase I liability trial. That is, it contends that the first phase can occur relatively quickly, with little or no additional discovery or motion practice. It contends that the Court should not order it to disclose the individuals on whose behalf it may ultimately seek damages for now. The EEOC contends that Phase I should decide whether a pattern or practice existed and that if it meets its burden, then: 1) the Court can make a determination as to any appropriate prospective equitable relief at that time, without delay; and 2) that same Phase I jury, as part of the Phase I trial, should also ...


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