167 F.3d 727 (1st Cir. 1999), 97-2093, Ramos v. Davis & Geck, Inc.

Docket Nº:97-2093, 97-2094.
Citation:167 F.3d 727
Party Name:Rafael RAMOS, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. DAVIS & GECK, INC., et al., Defendants, Appellees. Rafael Ramos, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. Davis & Geck, Inc., et al. Defendants, Appellants.
Case Date:February 18, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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Page 727

167 F.3d 727 (1st Cir. 1999)

Rafael RAMOS, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

DAVIS & GECK, INC., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

Rafael Ramos, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees,

v.

Davis & Geck, Inc., et al. Defendants, Appellants.

Nos. 97-2093, 97-2094.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

February 18, 1999

Heard Oct. 7, 1998.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jose Luis Ubarri with whom Herbert W. Brown, III and David W. Roman and Brown & Ubarri were on brief for plaintiff, appellant Rafael Ramos.

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Pedro J. Manzano-Yates with whom Fiddler Gonzalez & Rodr¡guez were on brief for defendant, appellee Davis & Geck, Inc.

Before LYNCH, Circuit Judge, CYR, Senior Circuit Judge, and LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Davis & Geck, Inc. appeals from a jury verdict finding that Davis & Geck constructively discharged Rafael Ramos in violation of Puerto Rico's employment discrimination statute (Law 100), P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 146 et seq. Ramos cross appeals, alleging error in the district court's (1) refusal to award front pay, (2) calculation of attorney's fees, and (3) denial of pre-judgment interest. We affirm.

I.

The jury could have found the following facts. See Rodriguez-Hernandez v. Miranda-Velez, 132 F.3d 848, 851 (1st Cir.1998) ("We review the facts in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict."). Ramos began working in the accounting department of Davis & Geck's manufacturing plant in Manati, Puerto Rico in 1974. In 1980, he was promoted to budget supervisor of the accounting section. In June 1991, Davis & Geck hired Francisco Rosaly as its cost accounting manager; Rosaly became Ramos' supervisor. Rosaly made several comments to Ramos and others about wanting "to get rid of old things" and "to bring in new blood" and that he, Rosaly, wanted "to change everything that was old."

On March 16, 1992, Ramos (53 years old at the time) was informed by Rosaly and Hazel Barry, the plant's controller, that he was being replaced as budget supervisor by Maritza Montalvo, a younger woman whom Ramos had recently trained. Ramos' pay and benefits were not changed. Ramos was told that the decision had been made and he could "take it or leave it."

After the meeting with Rosaly and Barry, Ramos began a previously scheduled, mandatory vacation period. (Ramos, along with other employees, had been ordered to take vacation because he had accrued substantial leave without taking a vacation.) When certain reports were requested of Ramos, however, he returned to work during his vacation to prepare the reports. One evening between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m., Davis & Geck's computer system "went down." When Ramos explained that he could therefore not finish the report, Rosaly stood behind Ramos and told him to go home because he, Ramos, was "a tired old man."

When Ramos returned from his vacation in April 1992, his office assignment had been changed. Montalvo was in Ramos' former cubicle, and Ramos had been transferred to "the death cubicle," so named because all employees who had been assigned to it left the company. In his new cubicle, Ramos found his personal belongings in a box on the floor and an obsolete, non-working computer on his desk.

Rosaly immediately demanded certain reports from Ramos. Ramos claimed that he was unable to produce the reports as a result of his inoperative computer. Rosaly instructed Ramos to use another computer, but Ramos said that all the computers were in use.

On April 21, 1992, Rosaly again demanded the reports. Ramos again told Rosaly that he had been unable to complete the reports because his computer was still not working and no other computer had been available. Rosaly stood in the entrance to Ramos' cubicle and threatened Ramos with an assault. 1 Shaken by the confrontation, Ramos began to cry and went to the company infirmary. Ramos was excused from work by the company doctor; he never returned to work.

Ramos was diagnosed with depression. In March 1994 the Puerto Rico State Insurance Board found that he had been disabled since April 21, 1992. In December 1994, Ramos filed suit alleging that Davis & Geck constructively discharged him because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (the

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ADEA), and Puerto Rico's Law 100, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 146 et seq. After a five day jury trial in January 1997, the jury found for Davis & Geck on the ADEA claim and for Ramos on the Puerto Rico Law 100 claim. It awarded Ramos $150,000 in damages, doubled to $300,000 pursuant to Puerto Rico law. 2 See P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 146 (requiring employers found to have violated Law 100 to pay the aggrieved employee "a sum equal to twice the damages sustained").

Both parties filed post-verdict motions. Davis & Geck sought a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial, both of which were denied. Ramos sought front pay, attorney's fees, and pre-judgment interest. Although the court denied front pay and pre-judgment interest, it awarded attorney's fees of $37,500--significantly less than the $303,360 requested by plaintiff. These appeals followed.

II.

A. Davis & Geck's Appeal

Davis & Geck argues that its post-verdict motions were improperly denied because Ramos failed to adduce sufficient evidence to support a jury finding that he had been constructively discharged. It further argues that the district court erred by failing to require proof that Davis & Geck intended to force Ramos to quit as an element of a claim of constructive discharge. Neither argument is availing.

1. Sufficient Evidence of Constructive Discharge

A judgment as a matter of law is only warranted if "no reasonable jury could have returned a verdict adverse to the moving party." Havinga v...

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