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Bogan v. MTD Consumer Group, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

March 26, 2019

SHEANETER J. BOGAN., Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
MTD CONSUMER GROUP, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee

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

          Before WIENER, SOUTHWICK, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.

          GREGG COSTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         Sheaneter Bogan filed suit alleging that she was fired because of her race and sex. A jury found in her favor but awarded her just $1. The district court then denied Bogan both reinstatement and front pay, leaving her with no remedy. We review the district court's decision not to award prospective relief. Because two of the reasons the district court relied on in denying reinstatement do not support that result, we remand for reconsideration.

         I.

         A.

         Bogan worked at MTD Consumer Group, a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, for about 20 years. She started with the company in unskilled positions, but while working took full-time classes at a community college so she could obtain a skilled position. After she completed that coursework, MTD eventually promoted Bogan to be a machinist in the Tool and Die department. She remained in that job for about two years until her termination in April 2013.

         While pursuing the Tool and Die position, Bogan also began going to school for a degree in social work. Her supervisors initially accommodated her class schedule with flexible work hours. But in fall 2012, human resources notified Bogan that, based on company policy only allowing flexible hours for work-related schooling, she had to work a normal shift.

         Despite this decision, Bogan still worked some irregular hours. So Bogan's supervisors reminded her that she had to work the regular 5:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m shift and could not attend classes during work hours. But on occasion Bogan would squeeze class time into her lunch break. When a supervisor learned about this, he suspended Bogan. MTD then terminated her, ostensibly because she came back from lunch late. Bogan unsuccessfully appealed her termination to an employee review board.

         B.

         After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, Bogan filed this suit alleging race and sex discrimination. MTD sought summary judgment. The district court denied that motion, concluding that the evidence could support a finding that MTD's reason for the termination was pretextual. For example, other employees "routinely" took lunch breaks that lasted longer than thirty minutes, but Bogan was the only one punished for doing so. The court also pointed to doubts about the accuracy of information in Bogan's personnel file.

         A four-day trial followed that resulted in the jury finding that MTD "discriminated against [Bogan] on the basis of her race and/or gender." The jury awarded her $1, perhaps because of a jury instruction on the consequences of a failure to mitigate, an argument that MTD pushed.

         Bogan then asked the court for reinstatement or front pay. The district court held a hearing after which it denied both requests. It cited four factors that it believed counseled against reinstatement and refused to order that remedy. For front pay, ...


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