women asked why the officials -- who they felt should have attended plaintiff's presentation -- had left. Plaintiff responded that she did not know. When the regional vice president entered the elevator, plaintiff exited and suggested that the women direct their question to him. Some four months later, at defendant Poulin's request, plaintiff memorialized the incident in a handwritten memorandum. DX F. In that memorandum, she acknowledged that not all of the IAM regional vice presidents welcomed her into their territories and explained that for that very reason she had been careful to act in a diplomatic fashion when members of her audience confronted the regional vice president in the elevator.
Another incident involving plaintiff occurred at the IAM general convention held in Cincinnati, Ohio in September 1980. Following a large caucus of female IAM members at the convention, arrangements were made for a subset of that group to meet to draft a resolution for the advancement of women in the union. At a daily staff meeting, plaintiff reported to her superiors that the meeting would take place, and defendant Poulin advised her that as director of the human rights department (formerly named the civil rights department), defendant Johnson would accompany her to the meeting. Defendant testified that she was concerned and upset by that decision because it "sent two signals" to the women -- that plaintiff was not trusted by her superiors or, alternatively, that she was not doing her job. Tr. 127. Plaintiff did not accompany Johnson to the meeting but instead arrived ahead of him. According to Johnson, his presence was not welcomed, but the meeting proceeded without incident. The following day, Johnson observed plaintiff crying at various times throughout the day at the civil rights information booth where she was stationed. Plaintiff testified that she was crying because she was upset that Johnson had been dispatched to the meeting of the women's group. The booth was visible to many people, and several gathered around to provide sympathy and comfort to plaintiff during the day. Defendants viewed the spectacle as an embarrassment to the union administration generally and to Johnson in particular, and plaintiff was reprimanded for her conduct upon her return to headquarters. Tr. 705-06.
Yet another incident which was the subject of testimony occurred at the IAM training conference held at Placid Harbor, Maryland, in August 1981. The conference, as described by defendant Winpisinger, was the occasion for the unveiling of a training curriculum designed to equip the union's organizers to confront antiunion tactics in the field and to capture the allegiance of unorganized workers. Tr. 848. Each department was charged with preparing a presentation which would "homogenize [the department's program and goals] into an aggressive forward thrust." Tr. 848. So that the union's top leaders would know the substance of and vital need for the curriculum and would be able to critique and adjust it as necessary, defendant Winpisinger directed that the IAM executive council would be the first class to which the new program would be presented. Tr. 848-50.
Plaintiff and defendant Johnson each delivered part of the presentation of the human rights department, plaintiff following Johnson to the podium. Winpisinger testified that some members of the audience, including himself, perceived tension and disagreement between the two, based in part on plaintiff's facial expressions and an apparent contrast in their themes. According to Winpisinger, Johnson's presentation was constructive and responsive to the assignment given, but plaintiff dwelled on the existing imbalance of minority representation in the union's top positions, rather than on the grassroots incentive programs which were the department's focus. Tr. 851. Winpisinger further testified that his reaction to the perceived infighting before the executive council was one of "unadulterated outrage" and that the council members in the audience were incensed as well. Tr. 846, 852.
Defendants testified that following the Placid Harbor training conference, Winpisinger decided to assign defendant Kourpias to exercise tight supervision over the human rights department in an effort to unify the spirit of the department. Over the next several months, Kourpias reported back on his progress and setbacks, and finally in the spring of 1982 announced that the department as it stood could not be saved. Winpisinger determined that plaintiff should be discharged at the end of June 1982, and instructed Poulin to carry out that decision. Poulin called plaintiff into his office on June 29, 1982 and informed her that her employment had been terminated, effective immediately. Poulin testified that he declined to discuss at length the reasons for the termination, but did explain to plaintiff that, in the union's estimation, the goals of the human rights department could not be met with her in the department. Tr. 573. Plaintiff claims that she was given no specific reasons for the termination; however, she does acknowledge being told that the discharge resulted from an evaluation of her performance.
Tr. 74. Plaintiff was offered a letter of recommendation and received her full salary through July 1982, in addition to compensation for accrued vacation time.
The occurrence and sequence of events in the above chronology is essentially undisputed: it is the significance of the various incidents that is the subject of controversy. Defendants argue that plaintiff's conduct at the 1979 Indiana council meeting, the 1980 convention and the 1981 Placid Harbor training seminar was indicative of her attitude generally. Each defendant testified that plaintiff did not work well with her supervisor, Clark Johnson, and refused to submit to his leadership in the human rights department. The defendants stated that over time, they came to realize that plaintiff sought control over that part of the department's program related to women's issues and resisted Johnson's participation in those matters. Defendants Winpisinger, Poulin and Kourpias further testified that plaintiff publicly belittled and undercut Johnson, whom she considered her intellectual inferior. Moreover, they testified that plaintiff appeared to have her own agenda for improving the union's racial balance, and used her position to advance her ideas (which called for an increase in appointments of blacks and women to high-level positions) over the union's program of grassroots development of minority opportunities in the field.
To corroborate plaintiff's claim that the asserted basis for her discharge was pretextual, a number of plaintiff's professional associates testified that they had never heard plaintiff belittle the union, its program, or her superiors and that she was, to their knowledge, at all times an excellent spokeswoman for the IAM. Plaintiff admitted that she and Clark Johnson "had [their] differences", Tr. 113; DX Q, but she denied that any frustrations she may have felt affected her ability to serve as Johnson's subordinate. Charles Higgins, a white male who had served as assistant to the white male director of the IAM education department until December 1982, testified that both he and a white woman in another department clashed with their superiors without being discharged. In later testimony, defendant Winpisinger stated that the white woman to whom Higgins referred had not held a position analogous to plaintiff's: according to Winpisinger, that employee was hired as a trade specialist but was delegated to assist a department director based on her expertise in trade. Winpisinger unequivocally stated that she was not the director's assistant and when the two were unable to work together she simply resumed her original duties outside of that department. Tr. 864-65.
In her own testimony, plaintiff emphasized that throughout her tenure at the IAM she received no written warnings of poor performance or advance notice of her termination. She further testified that even her direct supervisor claimed no foreknowledge of her termination and denied complaining about her work. Tr. 80. Defendant Winpisinger's testimony corroborated plaintiff on that point: by his account, he personally decided to fire plaintiff based in part on the feedback he had received from Kourpias since Kourpias had been assigned supervision of the human rights department. Winpisinger testified that he intentionally did not seek Johnson's direct participation in the discharge decision, because he was unwilling to pit one black against another. Tr. 899. Johnson testified that he had suggested to Kourpias that plaintiff be discharged from the department, Tr. 714, but there is no evidence that he discussed the matter directly with Winpisinger. Consistent with that, Winpisinger stated that he learned of Johnson's recommendation to Kourpias only after plaintiff had actually been discharged. Tr. 911.
Plaintiff also submitted that during defendant Winpisinger's term as international president of the union, only a small number of the available appointed positions in the union were awarded to minorities. At trial, Winpisinger disclaimed responsibility for the appointments made by vice presidents outside of headquarters, and contended that at least half of the appointees he himself selected were women and two were blacks. Tr. 912.
Finally, considerable testimony was presented with regard to defendant Winpisinger's general attitude on discrimination issues. To an individual, plaintiff's witnesses, including plaintiff herself, concurred in defendants' portrayal of Winpisinger as a leading opponent of discrimination in the labor field. No one disputed that the IAM civil rights (later human rights) department was the brainchild of Winpisinger and that he cared deeply about its success. It was also agreed that Winpisinger actively participates in or supports numerous organizations (including CLUW) which are dedicated to fighting discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere. By themselves, such factors bear on but do not decide the issue presented to the jury and to the Court -- whether defendants' treatment of plaintiff was motivated by discriminatory animus.
When faced with that question, and after weighing all of the evidence presented and assessing the demeanor and creditability of those who testified, the jury concluded that plaintiff had failed to prove her claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, but had prevailed under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and the DCHRA. Defendants' various challenges to that verdict will be considered in the following section.
II. Consideration of Defendants' Motion
A. Legal Standards and Defendants' Arguments Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b) and 59
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), a motion for judgment n.o.v. is resolved under the same standard as that applied to a motion for a directed verdict. Vander Zee v. Karabatsos, 191 U.S. App. D.C. 200, 589 F.2d 723, 726 (D.C. Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 962, 60 L. Ed. 2d 1066, 99 S. Ct. 2407 (1979); see also Tavoulareas v. Piro, 245 U.S. App. D.C. 70, 759 F.2d 90, 105 (D.C. Cir. 1985), vacated on other grounds and set for rehearing en banc. The accepted formulation of that standard in this Circuit is found in Alden v. Providence Hospital, 127 U.S. App. D.C. 214, 382 F.2d 163, 165 (D.C. Cir. 1967):
Unless the evidence, along with all inferences reasonably to be drawn therefrom, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff is such that reasonable jurors in fair and impartial exercise of their judgment could not reasonably disagree in finding for the defendant, the motion must be denied.
Tavoulareas, 759 F.2d at 105; accord Carter v. Duncan-Huggins, Ltd., 234 U.S. App. D.C. 126, 727 F.2d 1225, 1227 (D.C. Cir. 1984); Coburn v. Pan American World Airways, 229 U.S. App. D.C. 61, 711 F.2d 339, 342 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 994, 104 S. Ct. 488, 78 L. Ed. 2d 683 (1983); Metrocare v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 220 U.S. App. D.C. 104, 679 F.2d 922, 924-25 (D.C. Cir. 1982). The motion may be granted only when, " without weighing the credibility of the evidence, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment", 5A J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice para. 50.07 (2d ed. 1984) (emphasis supplied). If fair-minded people may differ as to the conclusion, or if there is substantial conflicting evidence, the judgment n.o.v. motion must be denied. Carter v. Duncan-Huggins, Ltd., 727 F.2d at 1227; see also Coburn v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 711 F.2d at 342.
A motion for new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 is addressed to the trial court's discretion
insofar as it is bottomed on the claim that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, that the damages are excessive, or that, for other reasons, the trial was not fair to the party moving . . .
Montgomery Ward & Co. v. Duncan, 311 U.S. 243, 251, 85 L. Ed. 147, 61 S. Ct. 189 (1940). "Other reasons" supporting a Rule 59 motion may include substantial errors in admission or rejection of evidence or jury instructions, jury misconduct, inconsistency in the verdict, denial of the proper mode of trial, or belated discovery of evidence, to name a few. Id.; 6A J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice § 59.08 (2d ed. 1984).
As one basis for both alternatives requested in their motions for judgment n.o.v. or a new trial, defendants contend that plaintiff should not have been granted a jury trial under the DCHRA as a matter of law. As the parties are well aware, there is a split of opinion in the district courts of this Circuit as to whether DCHRA claims call for a jury trial. See Turgeon v. Howard University, 571 F. Supp. 679 (D.D.C. 1983) (motion to strike demand for jury trial under DCHRA denied); see also Abbate v. Hyatt Corp., 28 F.E.P. Cases 542 (D.D.C. 1982) (DCHRA claim tried to judge). This Court has chosen to follow the Turgeon case inasmuch as the DCHRA claim, like the § 1981 claims, seeks compensatory damages, a form of legal relief. See generally Goodman v. Washington Radio, Inc., Civil Action No. 81-0062 (D.D.C. April 26, 1982) (attached to plaintiff's opposition to defendants' motion) and cases cited therein. Accordingly, that claim was properly tried to the jury rather than to the Court.
Defendants next challenge that portion of the verdict finding for plaintiff on her § 1985(3) claim on the ground that the evidence was legally insufficient to support that finding. Defendants correctly state that absent a finding for plaintiff on the § 1981 race discrimination claim, the § 1985(3) finding must be overturned. As was explained in the Order of February 13, 1984 at 9-11,
§ 1985 provides no substantive rights to plaintiff; it merely provides a remedy for violation of the rights it designates. Great American Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366, 372 [60 L. Ed. 2d 957, 99 S. Ct. 2345] (1979). The Supreme Court has expressly removed the guarantees of Title VII from the category of 'designated rights' subject to redress under § 1985(3) . . . [Moreover, the Supreme Court in Novotny ] described § 1985(3) as a remedial statute 'providing a civil cause of action when some otherwise defined federal right -- to equal protection of the laws or equal privileges and immunities under the laws -- is breached by a conspiracy. ' Novotny at 376 (emphasis supplied).