United States District Court, D. Maine
JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
A trial was held in this case from October 26 to October 29, 2015. At the close of the plaintiff’s case, and again at the close of all the evidence, Rumford Hospital moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). ECF No. 116; ECF No. 117. The court reserved its ruling on both oral motions. On October 29, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Catherine Prescott on all counts and awarded her $34, 285.00 in back pay and $1, 400.00 in compensatory damages. ECF No. 123. The parties have each submitted post-trial briefs, which I address below: first, Rumford Hospital’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law (ECF No. 137), and second, Prescott’s request for post-trial injunctive relief and interest (ECF No. 134).
I. RUMFORD HOSPITAL’S RENEWED MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
Rumford Hospital now renews its motion for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). ECF No. 137. For the reasons discussed below, I deny the motion.
A. Compensatory Damages
A plaintiff cannot recover compensatory damages under the Maine Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), 5 M.R.S.A. §§ 4551-4634 (2015), or the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 12101-12213 (2015) if the defendant employer has fewer than 15 employees, and can only recover compensatory damages under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 701-796l (2015), if the defendant employer receives federal funds. ECF No. 137 at 3 (citing 5 M.R.S.A. § 4613(2)(B)(8)(e); 42 U.S.C.A. § 1981a(b)(3); 29 U.S.C.A. § 794(a)). The Hospital asserts that Prescott did not introduce evidence at trial regarding the number of its employees or its receipt of federal funds. Id. Thus, Rumford Hospital claims that the jury should not have received a compensatory damages instruction. Id. at 2-3. Alternatively, the Hospital argues that even if the compensatory damages instruction was proper, I should nevertheless vacate the jury’s award because Prescott failed to introduce evidence regarding the number of people the Hospital employs and its receipt of federal funds. Id. at 3-4 (citing Silva v. Worden, 130 F.3d 26, 30 (1st Cir. 1997) (stating that the Court of Appeals would consider “all evidence offered during trial” in reviewing a directed verdict under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a))).
Rumford Hospital admitted in paragraphs four and five of its Answer that it receives federal funds for purposes of the Rehabilitation Act and that it has more than 15 employees-in fact, it admitted that it has approximately 250 employees. ECF No. 6 at 1, ¶¶ 4, 5. The Hospital’s argument that Prescott was still required to submit evidence at trial in order to establish these two facts is contrary to federal and Maine law. In SEC v. Happ, 392 F.3d 12, 24 (1st Cir. 2004) (citation and quotation marks omitted), the First Circuit held that “[u]nder federal law, stipulations and admissions in the pleadings are generally binding on the parties and the Court.” Likewise, in Burr v. Jordan, 2008 ME 87, ¶ 9, 948 A.2d 582 the Maine Law Court held that “[a]dmissions contained in a party’s pleadings are binding on those parties both at trial and on appeal.” “[A]nswers are fairly construed as a judicial admission . . . and dispense with the need for further evidence on that issue.” Sport-Obermeyer, Ltd. v. Arsenault, 447 A.2d 464 (Me. 1982). Thus, Rumford Hospital remains bound by the admissions in its Answer that it employs approximately 250 employees and receives federal funds for purposes of the Rehabilitation Act, ECF No. 6 at 1, ¶¶ 4, 5. There was no need for Prescott to introduce evidence to establish these facts. The Hospital’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law (ECF No. 137) is therefore DENIED with regard to compensatory damages.
B. Back Pay Award
Rumford Hospital argues that the jury’s award of back pay should be vacated or reduced because it was based upon “speculative, conjectural evidence.” ECF No. 137 at 4.
Prescott bore the initial burden of proving, “to a probability, the existence and extent of her unpaid wages.” Estes v. Pineland Farms, Inc., 2012 WL 1977956, at *1 (D. Me. June 1, 2012) (Fair Labor Standards Act (“F.L.S.A.”) case). This burden is “a minimal one, ” Sec’y of Labor v. DeSisto, 929 F.2d 789, 792 (1st Cir. 1991) (F.L.S.A. case), and is satisfied with either direct or circumstantial evidence “capable of supporting a just and reasonable inference.” Estes, 2012 WL 1977956, at *1.
The evidence supporting an award of back pay consisted of Prescott’s testimony that (1) she had previously worked at Rumford Hospital as a per diem nurse in the medical-surgical (“med-surg”) unit, where she was offered and had accepted shifts; (2) that she had worked, on average, between 24 and 28 hours per week; (3) that she had earned approximately $850 per week; (4) that if she had been permitted by Rumford Hospital to return to the per diem list on January 15, 2013, she would have been willing and able to work 12-hour shifts and would have accepted at least as many hours as she had previously worked as a per diem nurse. ECF No. 140 at 8-9. Furthermore, inpatient nurse manager Joette Carlton testified that Rumford Hospital still maintained a per diem list for the med-surg unit, and former nurse manager Diane York testified that Rumford Hospital had a need for per diem nurses in the med-surg unit.
Rumford Hospital argues that this evidence “failed to establish [Prescott’s] back pay damages with any probability” because as a per diem nurse, Prescott was not entitled to any set number of hours and was “competing with other nurses on the list for an indeterminate number of shifts.” ECF No. 137 at 6. The Hospital also argues that Prescott admitted that “she did not know how many shifts she would have been able to get[.]” ECF No. 141 at 3.
While not mathematically precise, Prescott’s testimony regarding the number of hours she previously worked and the amounts she previously earned was not speculative and did establish facts upon which the jury could reasonably rely to make an “intelligible and probable estimate” of her damages. Merrill Tr. Co. v. State, 417 A.2d 435, 441 (Me. 1980). Accordingly, Rumford Hospital’s renewed ...