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International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Uaw, and its Local 1869 v. General Motors LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 25, 2017

INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA UAW, and its LOCAL 1869, Plaintiffs,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS LLC, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING FRONT PAY DAMAGES

          STEPHEN J. MURPHY, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         A jury found Defendant liable under a collective bargaining agreement for laying off and failing to recall three former employees: Gerald Bosman, Linda Chapman, and Ovidiu Kowalski. ECF 95. The jury was not charged with determining damages because the parties agreed to leave the issue of damages to the Court. ECF 108, PgID 2354-57. The parties ultimately stipulated to damages for lost wages, benefits, and overtime. ECF 120. The Plaintiffs additionally requested reinstatement, which the Court denied. Id. Plaintiffs sought front pay as an alternative. Id. The Court referred the issue of front pay to mediation, but the parties did not reach an agreement.[1] ECF 122; ECF 123. The Court will now address whether front pay is an appropriate remedy, and if so, what is the proper amount.[2]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         When an employer breaches a collective bargaining agreement, the Court's primary goal is to make the injured employee whole. Wilson v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of Am., AFL-CIO, 83 F.3d 747, 756 (6th Cir. 1996). The Court has broad discretion to achieve the goal. Id. Front pay is an available remedy when, as here, reinstatement is inappropriate or infeasible. Suggs v. ServiceMaster Educ. Food Mgmt., 72 F.3d 1228, 1234 (6th Cir. 1996). Any award is not mandatory, but rather, is left to the discretion of the Court. Arban v. West Pub. Corp., 345 F.3d 390, 406 (6th Cir. 2003); Wilson, 83 F.3d at 756; Suggs, 72 F.3d at 1237.

         When front pay is an appropriate remedy, the Court must make an award that is reasonably specific as to duration and amount. Suggs, 72 F.3d at 1235. The following factors are relevant: (1) the employee's future in the position from which he was terminated; (2) the employee's work and life expectancy; (3) the employee's obligation to mitigate damages; (4) the availability of comparable employment opportunities and the time reasonably required to find substitute employment; (5) the present value of future damages; and (6) other factors that are pertinent in prospective damage awards. Id. at 1234.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Front Pay is an Appropriate Remedy

         Front pay is an appropriate remedy here. The Court is bound by the jury's determination that Defendant breached the collective bargaining agreement. ECF 95. The Court therefore must put Bosman and Kowalski in the positions they would be in absent the breach. Bosman and Kowalski have found new jobs, but they receive less compensation. ECF 104, PglD2029, 2079-80; ECF 124-9; ECF 124-10. Employees work to earn wages. And to be made whole, Bosman and Kowalski must be awarded their lost income for each year that they would have worked for Defendant absent the breach.

         After observing the trial and examining the record, the Court finds that Bosman and Kowalski would have worked for Defendant until retirement. Defendant has a demand for these workers; the record shows that Defendant hired workers in Bosman's and Kowalski's department since the layoff at issue here. ECF 105, PgID 2222, 2225-26. And Bosman and Kowalski are capable of filling the demand. Although they were not the most technically competent employees, they were good, hardworking men that arrived on time and did as they were told. Those facts are evident from their continuous employment of 10 years with no disciplinary issues. ECF 104, PgID 2005, 2084; ECF 105, PgID 2207. Moreover, a seniority list shows that an employee working in Bosman's and Kowalski's former department usually works until retirement. ECF 124-8.

         Given a factual finding that Bosman and Kowalski would have worked for Defendant until retirement, front pay is appropriate and necessary to make them whole.

         II. Amount of Front Pay

         A. Dr. Michael Thomson's Report

         Plaintiffs request $589, 178.00 in front pay for Bosman and $475, 806.00 for Kowalski. Plaintiffs submitted an expert report from Dr. Michael Thomson in support of the request.[3]ECF 124-2. Defendant did not rebut the report or provide alternative calculations, so the Court adopts Dr. Thomson's projections. Dr. Thomson is a qualified expert with a Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University. ECF124-3, PglD2546. Plaintiffs assert that Dr. Thomson first determined the difference between the wages Bosman and Kowalski earned in 2016 working for their current employers relative to what they would have earned working for Defendant. He then extended the wage loss until the time Bosman and Kowalski would be eligible for full Social Security benefits. When calculating his extension, Dr. Thomson applied a 4% adjustment for growth and inflation based on the price assumptions in the 2016 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds. ECF 124-4, PgID 2559. Finally, Dr. Thomson reduced the amounts to present value using the calculation provided in Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6306(2).

         B. S ...


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