822 F.2d 975 (11th Cir. 1987), 85-7562, Spanier v. Morrison's Management Services, Inc.

Docket Nº:85-7562.
Citation:822 F.2d 975
Party Name:Linda Lorie SPANIER, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee, v. MORRISON'S MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., a corporation; Morrison, Inc., a corporation, Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.
Case Date:July 24, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 975

822 F.2d 975 (11th Cir. 1987)

Linda Lorie SPANIER, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee,



Morrison, Inc., a corporation,

Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.

No. 85-7562.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 24, 1987

Page 976

Holly L. Wiseman, Markstein, Morris & Liles, Birmingham, Ala., for plaintiff-appellant, cross-appellee.

Cornelius R. Heusel, Kullman, Inman, Bee & Downing, New Orleans, La., Eldridge D. Lacy, Bradley, Arant, Rose & White, Birmingham, Ala., for defendants-appellees, cross-appellants.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama

Before GODBOLD, and HILL, Circuit Judges, and LYNNE [*], Senior District Judge.

GODBOLD, Circuit Judge:

This is an age discrimination suit. 1 A jury found that Morrison's had willfully violated the Age Discrimination in Employment

Page 977

Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. Sec. 621 et seq., and awarded damages. Morrison's moved for judgment n.o.v. and a new trial. The district court granted Morrison's motion for judgment n.o.v. as to the finding of willfulness, thus rendering Spanier ineligible for statutory double damages, and in the alternative found that Morrison's had acted in good faith and on that ground reduced the statutorily doubled damage award by half. Morrison's motion was denied in all other respects. Spanier appeals and questions the granting of this motion. Morrison's cross-appeal challenges the ruling to the extent that its motion was denied. We reverse on the appeal and affirm on the cross-appeal.

I. Facts

In 1974 Lorie Spanier was hired as an assistant manager by Morrison's Management Services, Inc., which provides management services for cafeterias maintained by institutions such as hospitals and factories. At that time Spanier was 48 years old and had over 15 years experience in the food-services industry. Previously she had held a similar position with another company. Spanier was soon promoted to a position as manager and worked in that capacity at a number of facilities over the next several years.

In 1976 Spanier was assigned to manage a cafeteria and box lunch program at the U.S. Steel plant in Fairfield, Alabama. Although initially she was successful in making the operation profitable, an economic downturn in the area caused business to diminish steadily in 1979 and 1980. To counteract the loss of business at that site Morrison's established an Alabama Commission on Aging ("ACOA") Meals-on-Wheels central kitchen there in 1981. Spanier was put in charge. Although the position required her to work much longer hours she continued to receive excellent performance evaluations and yearly bonuses and merit pay increases. In August 1982, a year and a half after taking on the ACOA program in addition to her duties at the U.S. Steel cafeteria, she received a performance rating of 100% on the ACOA program and 90% on the cafeteria program.

In 1983 Spanier was persuaded by her supervisor to transfer to the Morrison's operation at Brookwood Lodge, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center, to work at an increased salary. Her replacement at U.S. Steel was her assistant manager, a 46 year old. Several months later that person was replaced by a 26 year old. Spanier was then 58.

At trial employees of Morrison's testified that Spanier was transferred because of complaints about her performance that were received from the state agency for which Morrison's managed the ACOA facility. Complaints were also received, however, about all of the ACOA kitchens, and none of the complaints about Spanier was noted on her performance evaluations.

After Spanier had spent two months working at Brookwood Lodge the director asked that Spanier be replaced. When Spanier's supervisor told her that she would have to leave Brookwood he explained that the director there preferred male managers and assured her that her removal was not based on her performance. Spanier was replaced at Brookwood by a 23 year old. The assistant manager who had supervised her, Roy Ramsey, was 27 years old. At trial Ramsey testified that he had asked that Spanier be replaced because of her job performance. Ramsey did not inform Spanier, however, of his concerns about her performance or about the complaints he said he had received from patients at Brookwood.

After leaving Brookwood Spanier was placed on "unassigned status." She never again held a managerial position. She was transferred from facility to facility for several months, and her annual pay was cut from $20,000 to $18,500. One manager under whom she worked told Spanier that he had been asked to evaluate her performance because Morrison's wanted to get rid of her, and that he thought that she was being wronged. Tr. at 187.

After 10 months on unassigned status Spanier was asked by her supervisor to resign. Although formerly she had been told that she had not been reassigned because

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no openings had been available, on this occasion she was told that Morrison's needed "younger people that were more qualified." Tr. at 215. When Spanier refused to resign or retire she was fired.

The evidence at trial showed that during the 10 months that Spanier was unassigned there were 12 managerial openings in her district. Spanier was qualified for five of these, but all five were filled with younger, less experienced employees. Morrison's contends that it filled each of these five positions with someone other than Spanier for legitimate reasons other than Spanier's age.

At the conclusion of trial the jury returned a general verdict for Spanier and answered special interrogatories. The special interrogatories included the following: "Did you find from a preponderance of the evidence that plaintiff's termination resulted from age discrimination by the defendants?" The jury answered in the affirmative. The jury also found by special interrogatory that the age discrimination by Morrison's was a willful violation of the ADEA. The jury set damages for lost wages and benefits at $25,895.

Morrison's then moved for judgment n.o.v. or a new trial. The district court granted the motion for judgment n.o.v...

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