Wehr v. Ryan's Family Steak Houses, Inc., s. 94-5057

Decision Date17 March 1995
Docket NumberNos. 94-5057,94-5099,s. 94-5057
Citation49 F.3d 1150
Parties67 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 424, 66 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 43,473 Jack WEHR, Plaintiff-Appellee, Cross-Appellant, v. RYAN'S FAMILY STEAK HOUSES, INC., Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

Edward S. Monohan (argued and briefed), Ware & Monohan, Florence, KY, for plaintiff - appellee, cross-appellant.

Lewis F. Gossett (briefed), Ingrid J. Blackwelder (argued and briefed), Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Greenville, SC, for defendant - appellant, cross-appellee.

Before: WELLFORD, BOGGS, and SILER, Circuit Judges.

WELLFORD, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Jack Wehr, began to work for defendant, Ryan's Family Steak Houses, Inc. (Ryan's), in mid-1990. After a training course and some months of job experience at a beginning level of management, Wehr was promoted in December, 1990, from the fourth management position to the third management spot at the Florence, Kentucky store. Wehr worked under Mike Tanner, the general manager, and Larry Sanchez, the district manager.

In January, 1991, just one month after being promoted to third manager, Wehr was given an unfavorable review. Wehr explains that his low rating was partially due to his inexperience with Ryan's, but that the main reason for the low rating was his refusal to condone and participate in alleged sexual harassment of waitresses by Sanchez and Tanner.

Several witnesses testified at trial about the favoritism shown to young, attractive female employees who attended parties with Tanner and Sanchez on their respective houseboats. Sharon Newby, a former waitress at Ryan's, testified that "management was always flirting with the young girls." To reward these young waitresses, Tanner and Sanchez would schedule them to work in the front sections of the restaurant where the turnover of customers was higher and, accordingly, the nightly tips greater. Older waitresses were regularly placed in the less desirable back sections of the restaurant.

There was evidence, if believed by the jury, that harassment problems were pervasive and readily apparent, as demonstrated by the number of witnesses who testified at trial about it. Several waitresses testified at trial about the favoritism, and two of these waitresses, April Wilder and Janet Noonan, testified that Tanner and Sanchez had asked them for sexual favors. 1 Pam Green, the second-line manager at the time, also testified that she had complained several times to Tanner about the favoritism, but that she had been retaliated against for doing so.

In February of 1991, after several waitresses complained to Wehr, 2 he contacted Rick Erwin, Ryan's regional vice president of operations, to register his own objection. This call, which involved bypassing Tanner and Sanchez, turned out to have an adverse effect on Wehr's career at Ryan's.

After receiving Wehr's voice-mail message, Erwin arrived at the Florence store the next day to "investigate" the charges. Plaintiff contended that Erwin's investigation was neither thorough nor sincere. According to Wehr, Erwin was agitated with him in his interview at the restaurant. When pressed by Erwin, Wehr gave him the names of the two young waitresses that were the main subjects of Tanner's and Sanchez's alleged improper attentions--April Wilder and Nicole Bolin. Erwin then asked Wilder and Bolin if they had been harassed, and both denied that it had occurred. Wilder, however, testified that this response grew out of her apprehension about her job. Erwin did not ask any of the older waitresses about the favoritism about which Wehr had informed him. Nor did Erwin document his investigation about sexual harassment, although he did document the portion of his conversation with Wehr regarding Wehr's claim for unpaid hours of work.

Three weeks after this meeting at the restaurant, Ryan's discharged Wehr. Ryan's basis for the discharge was excessive tardiness and absenteeism, although Ryan's did not have a written record of Wehr's deficiencies in that respect. Instead, Ryan's points to an incident that occurred on March 5, 1991, when Wehr left Ryan's earlier than scheduled after stating that he was not feeling well. Ryan's claimed that Wehr failed to check out properly and did not discuss leaving with Tanner. Wehr claims, however, that he showed Tanner his doctor's statement about his illness. 3 The next morning, Tanner called Wehr and discharged him.

Wehr then brought suit against Ryan's under Title VII, alleging that he had been fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment violations. See 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-3(a). After hearing disputed proof, the jury agreed, but awarded Wehr only $2,000 in back pay. Wehr then amended his complaint to request the court to order reinstatement, which the magistrate judge granted. The court also awarded Wehr $30,065.63 in attorney fees and $1,196.90 in costs, although Wehr had requested $103,175.50 in attorney fees and $1,773.75 in costs.

Ryan's challenged each of these awards, alleging that during discovery it had learned that Wehr had lied about his employment background and medical history on his resume, including misstatements about his past mental stability and the circumstances of his leaving a former employer. Ryan's also alleged that they had discovered that Wehr had sexually harassed Tammy Farrell, a female waitress under Wehr's supervision. Ryan's claims that had they known of any of these incidents during Wehr's employment, they would have fired him. Ryan's argued that this circuit's after-acquired evidence rule prevents Wehr from recovering for the Title VII violation under our decision in Johnson v. Honeywell Info. Sys., Inc., 955 F.2d 409 (6th Cir.1992), and its progeny. The magistrate judge, however, rejected these arguments and denied Ryan's motion for judgment notwithstanding the jury's verdict.

On appeal, Ryan's renews its argument that Honeywell prevents Wehr from any recovery, including back pay, reinstatement, injunctive relief, and attorney fees. Ryan's also argues that Wehr did not have a good faith belief that sexual discrimination violations had occurred, and thus, he could not seek protection under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-3. Wehr cross-appeals, challenging the amount of the district court's award of attorney fees. We have jurisdiction over this appeal under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331.


This court's standard of review of denial of a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is identical to the standard used by the district court. We do not weigh the evidence, evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, or substitute our judgment for that of the jury. Instead, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made, and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences. The motion should be granted, and we should reverse the district court's decision, only if reasonable minds could not come to a conclusion other than one in favor of the movant. Phelps v. Yale Sec., Inc., 986 F.2d 1020, 1023 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 175, 126 L.Ed.2d 135 (1993).


In Johnson v. Honeywell Information Sys., Inc., 955 F.2d 409 (6th Cir.1992), we first applied the after-acquired evidence rule in the employment discrimination context, holding that an employer could escape any liability for its discriminatory actions if the company learned, after the fact, of an otherwise legitimate reason for taking the adverse employment action. In Honeywell, a female managerial employee sued her former employer for violating several Michigan laws prohibiting discrimination. The company, during discovery, learned that the employee had falsified the educational and experience portions of her resume. Although she had claimed to have earned a college degree, a prerequisite for the job, she had taken only four courses at the local university. Interpreting Michigan law, we held that "just cause for termination of employment may include facts unknown to an employer at the time of dismissal, though obviously such facts would be neither the actual nor inducing cause for the discharge."

In Milligan-Jensen v. Michigan Tech. Univ., 975 F.2d 302 (6th Cir.1992), cert. granted, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 2991, 125 L.Ed.2d 686 (1993), cert. dismissed, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 22, 125 L.Ed.2d 773 (1993), we extended our application of the after-acquired evidence to cover Title VII claims. Again, we provided the employer...

To continue reading

Request your trial
40 cases
  • Perry-Hartman v. The Prudential Insurance Company of America
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • July 20, 2021
    ... ... the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). ( See id. at ... Liberty Lobby, ... Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d ... 1995); Wehr v. Ryan's ... Family Steak Houses, Inc. , ... ...
  • Crawford Rehabilitation Services, Inc. v. Weissman
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • June 9, 1997
    ...the after-acquired evidence concerns the employee's misrepresentations in a job application or resume"); Wehr v. Ryan's Family Steak Houses, Inc., 49 F.3d 1150, 1152-53 (6th Cir.1995) (applying McKennon to case of resume fraud); Shattuck v. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., 49 F.3d 1106, 1108 (5th Ci......
  • Ellsworth v. Pot Luck Enterprises, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee
    • June 5, 2009
    ... ... at 358, 115 S.Ct. 879; see also Wehr v. Ryan's ... Page 882 ... Family Steak ... ...
  • Carr v. Woodbury County Juvenile Detention Center
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of West Virginia
    • November 23, 1995
    ...circumstances" affecting the award of backpay. McKennon, ___ U.S. at ___, 115 S.Ct. at 886; but see Wehr v. Ryan's Family Steak Houses, Inc., 49 F.3d 1150, 1154 (6th Cir.1995) (emphasizing McKennon's directive that equitable circumstances be considered, and directing the district court to t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Plaintiff's Prior Acts
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Employment Evidence
    • April 1, 2022
    ...to damages as opposed to liability, and request that court make a determination as to damages. See Wehr v. Ryan’s Family Steak House , 49 F.3d 1150 (6th Cir. 1995). The After-acquired Evidence Doctrine permits the defense to focus on the Plaintiff’s misconduct, even though it is unrelated t......
  • Trial preparation
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Litigating Sexual Harassment & Sex Discrimination Cases Representing the employee
    • May 6, 2022
    ...back pay award to period from date of unlawful discharge to date new information is discovered); Wehr v. Ryan’s Family Steak Houses , 49 F.3d 1150 (6th Cir. 1995) (after-acquired evidence relevant to determining award of damages or attorneys’ fees); Miller v. Bircham, Inc. , 67 FEP Cases 13......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT