296 F.3d 1265 (11th Cir. 2002), 01-12917, E.E.O.C. v. Joe's Stone Crabs, Inc.

Docket Nº:01-12917.
Citation:296 F.3d 1265
Party Name:EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JOE'S STONE CRABS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 12, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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296 F.3d 1265 (11th Cir. 2002)



JOE'S STONE CRABS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 01-12917.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 12, 2002

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Joel S. Perwin, Podhurst, Orseck, Josefsberg, Eaton & Meadows, Miami, FL, Robert D. Soloff, Fort Lauderdale, FL, for Defendant-Appellant.

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Jennifer S. Goldstein, EEOC Office of Gen. Counsel, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before TJOFLAT, COX and BRIGHT [*], Circuit Judges.


Joe's Stone Crab, Inc. ("Joe's") appeals the district court's entry of judgment in favor of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on the EEOC's claims, under Title VII, that Joe's intentionally discriminated against four female applicants—Carol Coyle, Raquel Munoz, Catherine Stratford, and Teresa Romanello. Although none of these women actually applied for a position during the actionable time period, the district court found that Joe's was liable because its discriminatory hiring practices during that time period deterred the women from applying. Because this finding is not supported with respect to Coyle and Munoz, we reverse the district court's judgment as to those applicants. By contrast, the record does support the district court's finding as to Stratford and Romanello. We affirm the district court's judgment as to Stratford; as to Romanello, we vacate and remand for the district court to recalculate damages.

I. Background

The facts and procedural history of this case, which is making its second appearance before this court, are described thoroughly in the opinion of the previous panel. See EEOC v. Joe's Stone Crab, Inc., 220 F.3d 1263 (11th Cir. 2000). Accordingly, we note only that background relevant to our decision in this appeal. This case began on June 25, 1991, when an EEOC Commissioner filed a discrimination charge against Joe's pursuant to sections 706 and 707 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 & § 2000e-6. The charge alleged that Joe's discriminated against women generally with respect to recruitment, hiring, and job assignments, but it did not allege discrimination against any specific individual. (R.5-137, Ex. A.) After investigating the allegations made in the charge, the EEOC issued a decision finding that Joe's had engaged in a pattern and practice of intentional discrimination against women by failing to recruit and hire them as wait staff. (R.5-137, Ex. B at 6.) As required by Title VII, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), Joe's and the EEOC attempted to conciliate the findings made in the Decision, but their efforts proved unsuccessful.

Thereafter, on June 8, 1993, the EEOC filed a complaint in federal court pursuant to § 706, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f), alleging that Joe's violated Title VII through both intentional disparate treatment discrimination and unintentional disparate impact discrimination. The complaint, however, did not allege that Joe's engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination, the type of discrimination specifically referenced in the EEOC's Decision. The EEOC subsequently filed an amended complaint in response to Joe's motion for a more definite statement. Like the original complaint, the amended complaint alleged disparate treatment discrimination and disparate impact discrimination, but it did not allege pattern and practice discrimination.1 Unlike the original complaint, however, the amended complaint identified eighteen individuals allegedly aggrieved by the employment practices at Joe's. (R.1-38, Ex. A.)

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Among the individuals identified were Raquel Munoz, Catherine Stratford, and Carol Coyle, three of the claimants whose claims are at issue in this appeal. (Id.) The fourth claimant, Theresa Romanello, was identified later in the proceedings.

The district court held a bench trial on liability, after which it entered a partial judgment in favor of the EEOC, making factual findings and conclusions of law with respect to Joe's hiring practices. See EEOC v. Joe's Stone Crab, Inc., 969 F.Supp. 727 (S.D.Fla.1997). Since the late 1970s, the owners of Joe's have delegated authority to hire new food servers to subordinate staff. See id. at 731. Food servers generally are hired at a "roll call," held every year on the second Tuesday in October. Although Joe's rarely advertises, the district court found that the roll call was "widely known throughout the local food server community." Id. at 733. In addition, there existed a "widely held belief among workers in the Miami food serving industry" that Joe's did not hire women to fill food server positions. Id. Between 1986 and 1990, Joe's hired 108 new food servers, all of whom were male. Id. The district court rejected the EEOC's disparate treatment claims on the ground that the EEOC had not proven intentional discrimination. See id. at 735. The district court found, however, that Joe's nonetheless was liable for disparate impact discrimination because its delegation of hiring authority to subordinate staff resulted in a statistical disparity between the available female labor pool and the number of females actually hired by Joe's. See id. at 736-40. With liability determined, the district court then held another bench trial, this time on remedies, and entered judgments awarding back pay and prejudgment interest to Stratford, Munoz, Coyle, and Romanello. The district court also ordered extensive injunctive relief with respect to Joe's hiring practices.2

Joe's appealed the district court's entry of judgment on the disparate impact claims, as well as the imposition of monetary and injunctive relief. The EEOC also filed a notice of appeal; however, this court subsequently dismissed that cross-appeal pursuant to the EEOC's own motion. Instead of pursuing the cross-appeal, the EEOC argued that, if the judgment could not be affirmed for the reasons articulated by the district court (i.e., unintentional disparate impact), it nonetheless could be affirmed on the alternative basis that Joe's had discriminated against the claimants intentionally (i.e., intentional disparate treatment). This court rejected the district court's finding of disparate impact and vacated its judgment of liability as to the EEOC's disparate impact claims. See Joe's, 220 F.3d at 1283. But, concluding that the district court's factual findings might support a finding of intentional discrimination, the court remanded the case to the district court to "make such factual findings and draw such conclusions of law about the EEOC's intentional discrimination claims as it may deem appropriate." Id. at 1287.

On remand, without holding a hearing or receiving supplemental briefing or argument from the parties, the district court determined that the EEOC proved its claim of intentional disparate treatment discrimination. See EEOC v. Joe's Stone Crab, Inc., 136 F.Supp.2d 1311, 1313 (S.D.Fla.2001). Reiterating certain of its previous factual findings, and reaffirming

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all others, see id. at 1312-13, the district court then entered an amended final judgment, again awarding back pay and prejudgment interest to Stratford, Munoz, Coyle, and Romanello. Joe's appeals. II. Standard of Review

In considering the district court's judgment, we review its factual findings for clear error and its legal conclusions de novo. See, e.g., Joe's, 220 F.3d at 1273; Wilson v. Minor, 220 F.3d 1297, 1301 (11th Cir. 2000). We review the district court's award of back pay for abuse of discretion. See EEOC v. Guardian Pools, Inc., 828 F.2d 1507, 1511 (11th Cir. 1987).

III. Discussion

Joe's asserts two primary challenges to the district court's judgment. First, Joe's contends that the district court erred in finding it liable for disparate treatment discrimination because the evidence is insufficient to support that finding with respect to any of the four claimants at issue. Second, Joe's contends that, even assuming that the EEOC established disparate treatment liability as to the four claimants, the district court erred in its determination of damages and prejudgment interest.3

A. Liability

1. Actionable Period

At the outset, we must establish the appropriate temporal reach of the EEOC's disparate treatment claims. Section 706 of Title VII, the statute under which the EEOC brought this action, requires that a plaintiff, including the EEOC itself, exhaust certain administrative remedies before filing a suit for employment discrimination. See generally 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5; Wilkerson v. Grinnell Corp., 270 F.3d 1314, 1317 (11th Cir. 2001). The administrative process is initiated by timely filing a charge of discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b); Wilkerson, 270 F.3d at 1317. For a charge to be timely in a deferral state such as Florida, it must be filed within 300 days of the last discriminatory act. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Accordingly, only those claims arising within 300 days prior to the filing of the EEOC's discrimination charge are actionable. See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, — U.S.—, 122 S.Ct. 2061, —L.Ed.2d — (2002); Taylor v. Hudson Pulp & Paper Co., 788 F.2d 1455, 1458 (11th Cir. 1986). Because the EEOC filed its charge on June 25, 1991, discriminatory acts occurring prior to August 29, 1990 are outside the scope of this action.

The EEOC, however, argues that the discrimination in this case constituted a continuing violation, which extended the limitations period beyond August 29, 1990. In determining whether a discriminatory employment practice constitutes a continuing violation, "we must...

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