Back Pay Can Include Lost Overtime

Frazier Caudle, Nikeith Goins, William James, Sholanda Miller, and Donald Smalls were all members of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department’s First District Focus Mission Unit (FMU), a specialized plainclothes unit composed of “productive” patrol officers who “graduated to” FMU duty. Their commander decided to require the FMU officers to submit applications to remain in the unit, an apparently unprecedented step that she described as motivated by performance concerns. The officers each submitted an application to remain in the FMU, but the application of each was denied, and they were replaced by officers from the patrol unit.

The officers filed a lawsuit contending that their transfer was in retaliation for their making a complaint of racial discrimination. Following a trial, a jury found for the officers, awarding Caudle and Goins $200,000 each, James and Smalls $250,000 each, and Miller no damages. The officers then sought a ruling from the Court that they should receive additional damages in the form of lost overtime.

The officers presented the testimony from Dr. Louis Lanier, an expert economist, who quantified the amount of lost overtime pay, both by comparing the officers’ pre- and post-transfer overtime hours and by comparing the officers’ post-transfer overtime to hours to those of the officers who remained in the FMU after it was organized. The employer challenged the request for overtime, lodging a number of arguments.

First, the employer argued that Lanier’s methodology was “grounded upon no particular method or procedure,” and “not tied to the facts of the case.” The Court found that “this argument is wholly without merit. Lanier testified that his conclusions were based on a database of hours worked and pay stub data, both provided by the employer, and explained that he reached those conclusions by conducting the comparisons described above. It is thus obvious that Lanier’s conclusions were based on a ‘particular method or procedure,’ and the District’s unsupported assertions to the contrary are ‘no more than unfounded lay opinion,’ amounting to ‘a failure of proof.’ Lanier’s description of the basis for his calculations – the overtime-hours and pay-rate data provided to him by the District – makes clear that his conclusions were ‘tied to the facts of the case.’”

The District also attacked Lanier’s conclusions as purely “speculative,” arguing that “it is impossible to reconstruct what would have followed had the unit not been reorganized; thus, the officers cannot meet their burden to establish the likelihood of damages.” Again, the Court was unconvinced, noting that “calculating lost pay in a case like this necessarily involves some amount of estimation, precisely because it is not possible to reconstruct with perfect accuracy the events that would have occurred but for the defendant’s unlawful conduct; this speculative aspect should not deter courts from fashioning awards that accomplish Title VII’s goals of making a wronged plaintiff whole. Here, the fact that Lanier necessarily had to rely on certain basic assumptions does not undermine the validity of his conclusions or his methodology, especially given the District’s failure to offer any evidence or expert testimony that called those assumptions into question.”

Caudle v. District of Columbia, 825 F. Supp. 2d 73 (D. D.C. 2012).