United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
United States of America (Plaintiff or the United States)
filed suit against Defendants New Mexico State University and
New Mexico State University Board of Regents (collectively,
Defendants or NMSU) to enforce the provisions of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et
seq. The United States alleges that Defendants
engaged in pay discrimination against former employee Meaghan
Harkins (Ms. Harkins) in violation of Title VII, and it
requests both compensatory damages and injunctive relief.
Defendants have moved for partial summary judgment on
Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief, and that motion
has been fully briefed. The Court will deny the Motion.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When applying this standard, the Court
“‘view[s] all evidence and any reasonable
inferences that might be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party.'” Riser v.
QEP Energy, 776 F.3d 1191, 1195 (10th Cir. 2015)
(quoting Croy v. Cobe Labs. Inc., 345 F.3d 1199,
1201 (10th Cir. 2003). A “material” fact is one
that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A dispute over a
material fact is ‘genuine' if a rational jury could
find in favor of the nonmoving party on the evidence
presented.” E.E.O.C. v. Horizon/CMS Healthcare
Corp., 220 F.3d 1184, 1190 (10th Cir. 2000).
alleges that because of Ms. Harkins' gender, Defendants
paid her less than they paid two male employees in similar
positions. The factual background of this claim is set forth
in the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order denying
summary judgment (Doc. No. 259), and the Court will not
repeat it here. In addition to compensation for Ms. Harkins
and reimbursement of its own costs, Plaintiff asks the Court
to “[e]njoin NMSU from engaging in discrimination, in
violation of Title VII, against any employee or applicant for
employment” and “[o]rder NMSU to institute
policies, practices, and programs to ensure a
non-discriminatory workplace, including but not limited to
implementing appropriate policies and providing adequate
training to all employees and officials regarding
compensation discrimination[.]” Compl. ¶ 27.
Defendants contend that, as a matter of law, the Court may
not grant Plaintiff injunctive relief because Plaintiff did
not allege a pattern or practice of discrimination.
argue that a single discriminatory act can never warrant an
injunction without proof of a pattern or practice of
discrimination. Of the cases Defendants cite, only a few
district court cases provide support for this categorical
statement. See Drez v. E.R. Squibb & Sons, Inc.,
674 F.Supp. 1432 (D.Kan. 1987) (“The court can
summarily dismiss plaintiff's requested injunctive
relief. When there is no proof of a pattern or practice of
discrimination, an injunction barring an employer from
continuing alleged discriminatory practices is not
appropriate.”); Kulling v. Grinders, 185
F.Supp.2d 800, 822 (E.D. Mich. 2002) (same, quoting
Drez). EEOC v. RadioShack Corp., Civil No.
10-cv-02365-LTB-BNB, 2012 WL 6090283, at *6 (D. Colo. Dec. 6,
2012) (unreported) (same, quoting Drez). The Court
is not bound by these cases, and it does not find them
persuasive because they limit the discretion of the Court and
contradict the standard for the exercise of that discretion
as it has been articulated by the United States Supreme Court
and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
violation of Title VII is proven, “the court may enjoin
the respondent from engaging in such unlawful employment
practice, and order . . . any other equitable relief as the
court deems appropriate.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-5(g)(1). Injunctive relief is appropriate if the
plaintiff demonstrates that “‘there exists some
cognizable danger of recurrent violation, something more than
the mere possibility which serves to keep the case
alive.'” Roe v. Cheyenne Mountain Conference
Resort, Inc., 124 F.3d 1221, 1230 (10th Cir. 1997)
(quoting United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 345 U.S.
629, 633 (1953)). Factors the Court will consider are the
character of the violation, the effectiveness of any changes
instituted subsequent to the violation, and the credibility
of any expressed intent to comply with the law. See
Id. However, the final determination is based on the
totality of the circumstances. See Id. The Court has
the discretion to determine an appropriate equitable remedy
based upon the particular facts of the case. EEOC v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 11 F.Supp.2d 1313, 1330 (D.N.M.
1998), aff'd, 202 F.3d 281 (10th Cir. 1999).
relief is not limited to cases in which there is a pattern or
practice of discrimination.” EEOC v. Beverage
Distribs. Co., LLC, 2013 WL 6458735, at *9 (D. Colo.
Dec. 9, 2013), rev'd in part on other grounds,
780 F.3d 1018 (10th Cir. 2015). “Instead, the apt
inquiry is not whether . . . other employees have been
discriminated against; it is whether the evidence presented
at trial demonstrates a danger of recurrent
violations.” Id.; see also EEOC v.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 202 F.3d 281, 1999 WL 1244485
(10th Cir. Dec. 21, 1999) (affirming district court's
grant of injunctive relief in a single plaintiff case). Even
the majority of the cases Defendants rely on do not support
the legal bar Defendants assert. Rather, they conclude that
in a particular case based on a single violation, the
evidence as a whole did not demonstrate a cognizable danger
of future violations. See, e.g., Garrison v.
Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., 287 F.3d 955,
963 (10th Cir. 2002) (injunctive relief was not appropriate
when the evidence established only a single incident of
discrimination and no danger of recurrent violations).
argues that because Defendants misstate the law, Defendants
do not allege facts that would entitle them to summary
judgment. Further, Plaintiff contends that this issue should
not be decided at the summary judgment stage because a proven
violation of Title VII is a prerequisite to an award of
injunctive relief. But in deciding the Motion, the Court will
assume that Plaintiff can prove its claim at trial. Finally,
Plaintiff contends that the evidence suggests that there is a
continuing likelihood of future violations.
Motion relies largely on the alleged uniqueness of Ms.
Harkins' claim, the existence of anti-discrimination
policies at NMSU, and Plaintiff's failure to allege a
policy or pattern of discrimination. The Court agrees that
these facts alone are insufficient to show that Defendants
are entitled to summary judgment. Although Defendants have
revised their salary-setting policies since Ms. Harkins left
their employment, Plaintiff argues that those new policies
still do not adequately prevent pay discrimination. Plaintiff
presents evidence that Defendants' current procedures
would still allow employees with the same qualifications and
responsibilities to be paid differently and that
Defendants' anti-discrimination policies are not
effectively implemented. See Resp. at 27-35.
Reply, Defendants characterize Plaintiffs arguments as
“absurd” and ask the Court to make reasonable
inferences in their favor. Reply at 12. But this is not the
standard for summary judgment, and Defendants do not
demonstrate that Plaintiffs evidence is contradicted by the
record. Defendants provide evidence that certain NMSU
employees were aware of or had received training on
NMSU's antidiscrimination policies, and Defendants argue
that their current pay-setting procedures are a permissible
gender-neutral classification system. However, the Court will
resolve all factual disputes in favor of Plaintiff as the
nonmovant. Accordingly, the Court concludes that Plaintiff
has presented sufficient evidence to create genuine issues of
material fact as to whether there is a cognizable danger of
recurrent violations that could justify an award of
injunctive relief if Plaintiff prevails at trial.
THEREFORE ORDERED that NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY'S
MOTION AND MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF ITS MOTION FOR
PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT REGARDING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF (Doc.
No. 143) is DENIED.