United States District Court, District of Columbia
MARK E. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S
MOTIONS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF, BACK PAY, AND ATTORNEYS'
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mark Robinson, a sergeant in the District of Columbia's
(the “District”) Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”), sued the District under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. (“Title VII”), and the District of
Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et
seq. (“DCHRA”), alleging that he was denied
the opportunity to work in a particular MPD unit because of
race discrimination and retaliation. Following a trial, the
jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Robinson, awarding
him $750 in compensatory damages. Having received a favorable
jury verdict, Mr. Robinson seeks from the Court injunctive
relief, an award of back pay, and attorneys' fees. Upon
consideration of the parties' filings, the Court
concludes that Mr. Robinson is entitled to all three forms of
relief, though not to the extent he requests. Accordingly,
the Court will grant in part and deny in part Mr.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Robinson's lawsuit was prompted by his desire to work in
the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit
(“ATEU”)-an MPD division created to organize
traffic camera photographs, analyze evidence of traffic
violations, and issue citations-and his inability to secure
that work. See generally Affidavit of Mark E.
Robinson (“Robinson Affidavit I”), ECF No. 24-1.
Mr. Robinson began working full time in the ATEU in 2008, and
he became sufficiently proficient in the unit's functions
that he was tasked with training and certifying MPD officers
to work in the ATEU Overtime Program, which allowed those
officers to supplement their normal workload with ATEU
overtime work. See id. ¶¶ 11-16.
late-2011, Mr. Robinson was transferred from the ATEU to
MPD's Special Events Branch (“SEB”),
ostensibly because MPD was “civilianizing” the
ATEU. Id. ¶ 18. After Mr.
Robinson's transfer to the SEB, while MPD officers could
no longer work full time in the ATEU, the ATEU Overtime
Program continued. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. During
his time in the SEB, Mr. Robinson sought reassignment to the
ATEU and the opportunity to participate in the ATEU Overtime
Program. Id. ¶¶ 18-23. His requests were
denied by his supervisor, Lisa Sutter. Id.
¶¶ 21, 24, 34.
Robinson brought this action in 2015, alleging that he was
transferred out of the ATEU, denied reassignment to the ATEU,
and denied the opportunity to participate in the ATEU
Overtime Program between February 2014 and May 2015, all
because of his race or in retaliation for complaining about
racial discrimination. See generally Compl., ECF No.
1-3. After several rounds of briefing, the case proceeded to
trial on Mr. Robinson's claim that he was denied ATEU
overtime opportunities because of discrimination or
retaliation. See Robinson v. District of Columbia
(“Robinson I”), 139 F.Supp.3d 448, 451
(D.D.C. 2015) (dismissing Mr. Robinson's claims brought
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a)); Robinson II, 275
F.Supp.3d at 104-05 (dismissing Mr. Robinson's claims of
retaliation and discrimination arising from his reassignment
from the ATEU to the SEB). The Court dismissed Mr.
Robinson's retaliation claim at the end of his case,
leaving only Mr. Robinson's discrimination claim for the
jury's deliberation. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
50(a)(2); Minute Order, Mar. 13, 2018. On this claim, the
jury found that Mr. Robinson's SEB supervisor in 2014 and
2015, Ms. Sutter, discriminated against him by denying him
ATEU overtime opportunities, and the jury accordingly awarded
Mr. Robinson $750 in damages. See Verdict Form, ECF
after the trial, Mr. Robinson filed a motion asking the Court
to (1) enjoin the District from excluding Mr. Robinson from
ATEU overtime opportunities which are not filled by officers
actively working within the ATEU; (2) enjoin the District
from retaliating against Mr. Robinson; and (3) enjoin the
District from discriminating against Mr. Robinson on the
basis of his race or color. Mot. Injunctive Relief
(“Inj. Mot.”) at 3, ECF No. 64. Mr. Robinson also
filed motions for back pay, Mot. Award Back Pay (“Pay
Mot.”), ECF No. 70, and attorneys' fees, Mot.
Attys' Fees Costs (“Fee Mot.”), ECF No.
motions are now ripe for the Court's consideration. The
Court concludes that while Mr. Robinson is entitled to all
three types of relief, he is not entitled to all injunctive
relief sought, nor is he entitled to the full amounts of back
pay and attorneys' fees sought. Accordingly, as explained
below, the Court grants Mr. Robinson's motions in part.
of the central purposes of Title VII is ‘to make
persons whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful
employment discrimination.'” Franks v. Bowman
Transp. Co., Inc., 424 U.S. 747, 763 (1976) (quoting
Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 418
Title VII expressly provides for a wide range of remedies:
If the court finds that the [defendant] has intentionally
engaged in . . . an unlawful employment practice charged in
the complaint, the court may enjoin the [defendant] from
engaging in such unlawful employment practice, and order such
affirmative action as may be appropriate, which may include,
but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees,
with or without back pay . . . or any other equitable relief
as the court deems appropriate.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1).
considering what remedy is appropriate, a court “must
strive to grant ‘the most complete relief
possible.'” Lander v. Lujan, 888 F.2d 153,
156 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (quoting Franks, 424 U.S. at
764). In other words, the court's goal is to restore the
prevailing plaintiffs, as nearly as possible, to the
circumstances they “would have occupied if the wrong
had not been committed.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Albemarle Paper,
422 U.S. at 418- 19). The court has “considerable
discretion” to fashion such a remedy. Lander,
888 F.2d at 156; see also Hayes v. Shalala, 933
F.Supp. 21, 25 (D.D.C. 1996).
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) requires a party seeking
attorneys' fees and “related nontaxable
expenses” to file a motion with the court. Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(d)(2)(A). The motion must “specify the judgment and
the statute, rule, or other grounds entitling the movant to
the award.” Id. 54(d)(2)(B). It must also
state the amount or provide a fair estimate of the award
sought. Id.; see also Craig v. District of
Columbia, 197 F.Supp.3d 268, 274 (D.D.C. 2016).
Title VII, the Court is authorized, in its discretion, to
award “the prevailing party . . . a reasonable
attorney's fee (including expert fees) as part of the
costs.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). Generally,
“[a] reasonable fee is one that is adequate to attract
competent counsel, but that does not produce windfalls to
attorneys.” West v. Potter, 717 F.3d 1030,
1033 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897 (1984)).
In awarding appropriate attorneys' fees, a court must
conduct a two-step inquiry. Craig, 197 F.Supp.3d at
274-75 (citing Does I, II, III v. District of
Columbia., 448 F.Supp.2d 137, 140 (D.D.C. 2006)).
the court must determine whether the plaintiff is the
prevailing party. Id. Plaintiffs are considered
prevailing parties, entitled to attorneys' fees,
“if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation
which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in
bringing suit.” Harvey v. Mohammed, 951
F.Supp.2d 47, 53 (D.D.C. 2013) (internal quotation marks and
alterations omitted) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). A litigant need not succeed at
every step of the litigation in order to be a prevailing
party under Title VII; indeed, “a litigant who is
unsuccessful at a stage of litigation that was a necessary
step to her ultimate victory is entitled to attorney's
fees even for the unsuccessful stage.” Craig,
197 F.Supp.3d at 275 (internal quotation marks omitted)
(quoting Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of Fr. in the
U.S., 189 F.Supp.3d 48, 54-55 (D.D.C. 2016)).
the court must determine whether the plaintiff's fee
request is reasonable. Does I, II, III, 448
F.Supp.2d at 140. In calculating a reasonable fee award, a
district court must determine: (1) the reasonable hourly rate
(or “lodestar”) for the services rendered by the
plaintiff's attorney, (2) the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation, and (3) whether the plaintiff has
offered specific evidence demonstrating that this is one of
the rare cases where a lodestar enhancement or multiplier is
appropriate. See Covington v. District of Columbia,
57 F.3d 1101, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 1995); Heller v. District
of Columbia, 832 F.Supp.2d 32, 38 (D.D.C. 2011).
“The most useful starting point for determining the
amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly
rate.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. With respect
to the number of hours expended, the court must exclude hours
that are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.” Craig, 197 F.Supp.3d at 275
(quoting Does I, II, III, 448 F.Supp.2d at 140).
Along the same lines, if a plaintiff “achieved only
partial or limited success, ” the court may conclude
that “the product of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may be
an excessive amount, ” and it may accordingly reduce
the award. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436.
the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing both his
entitlement to attorneys' fees and the reasonableness of
the fees he seeks. See Covington, 57 F.3d at 1107;
Turner v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 354
F.3d 890, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2004). A plaintiff can satisfy this
burden by submitting evidence of: “the attorneys'
billing practices; the attorneys' skill, experience, and
reputation; and the prevailing market rates in the relevant
community.” Covington, 57 F.3d at 1107. Once
the plaintiff has provided such information, a presumption
arises that the hours billed are reasonable, and the burden
shifts to the defendant to rebut the plaintiff's showing.
Id. at 1109-10.
described above, the jury concluded that Mr. Robinson's
supervisor, Ms. Sutter, withheld ATEU Overtime opportunities
from Mr. Robinson because of his race. Mr. Robinson's
rights having been vindicated at trial, he now seeks
injunctive relief, back pay, and attorneys' fees. The
Court will address each form of relief in turn, concluding
that Mr. Robinson is entitled to a portion of the injunctive
relief sought, a portion of the back pay sought, and a
portion of the attorneys' fees sought. Accordingly, it
grants each of Mr. Robinson's motions in part.
the Court addresses Mr. Robinson's motion for injunctive
relief. Under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1), the Court may
grant “equitable relief” that “the court
deems appropriate” to restore Mr. Robinson, as nearly
as possible, to the circumstances he “would have
occupied if the wrong had not been committed.”
Lander, 888 F.2d at 156. As noted, Mr. Robinson asks
the Court to (1) enjoin the District from excluding Mr.
Robinson from ATEU overtime opportunities which are not
filled by officers actively working within the ATEU; (2)
enjoin the District from retaliating against Mr. Robinson;
and (3) enjoin the District from discriminating against Mr.
Robinson because of his race. Inj. Mot. at 3. As explained
below, the Court will enjoin the District from excluding Mr.
Robinson from the ATEU Overtime Program because of his race,
but it will not enjoin the District from discriminating or
retaliating against Mr. Robinson going forward, because Mr.
Robinson has not demonstrated that such relief is necessary.
Access to Overtime Opportunities
response to the jury's finding that he was deprived of
ATEU overtime opportunities because of his race, Mr. Robinson
argues that the District should be enjoined from excluding
him “from consideration from overtime opportunities
offered in” the ATEU going forward. Inj. Mot. at 3. The
District, on the other hand, argues that this relief would be
overbroad because it “contemplates generic overtime
opportunities offered in the ATEU, ” while the jury
found that Mr. Robinson was discriminated against with
respect to only a subset of those opportunities; those
offered in the ATEU Overtime Program. Def.'s Opp'n
Pl.'s Mot. Injunctive Relief (“Inj.
Opp'n”) at 2, ECF No. 66. The District argues that
this program was discontinued “in or about May 2015,
” Mr. Robinson's assertions to the contrary
notwithstanding. Id. at 3. The District also notes
that Mr. Robinson's motion “makes no mention of
racial discrimination, ” which suggests that Mr.
Robinson's requested relief would prevent the District
from excluding Mr. Robinson from consideration for ATEU
overtime opportunities even for non-discriminatory reasons.
Id. at 2.
Court declines to determine whether the ATEU Overtime Program
is still in operation, and it instead grants Mr.
Robinson's requested relief more narrowly than it is
framed in his motion. “When fashioning remedies under
Title VII, courts attempt not to ‘interfere with the
policymaking and personnel decisions that rightly belong to
public servants.'” Caudle v. District of
Columbia, 825 F.Supp.2d 73, 80 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting
Jones v. Rivers, 732 F.Supp. 176, 178 (D.D.C.
1990)). Although that goal is ultimately secondary to Title
VII's core purpose of making a plaintiff whole, see
Lander, 888 F.2d at 156, it is nevertheless a factor to
be considered. Accordingly, the Court will not require the
District to consider Mr. Robinson for all overtime
opportunities offered in the ATEU. Rather, it enjoins the
District from excluding Mr.
because of his race, from overtime opportunities in the ATEU
Overtime Program, to the extent the Program is still
operational and such opportunities are available to officers
outside the ATEU unit.
Robinson also argues that the District should be enjoined
from retaliating against him because of his successful
lawsuit. Inj. Mot. at 3. He claims that he is particularly
“vulnerable” to retaliation because one of his
current supervisors, Captain Robert Glover, testified for the
District during the trial about SEB overtime opportunities.
Id. at 2. Mr. Robinson asserts that Captain
“Glover and the [MPD] command staff must be embarrassed
and greatly displeased with a verdict that impliedly finds
them derelict in their duties, ” and are likely to seek
retribution. Pl.'s Reply Inj. Opp'n at 2, ECF No. 71.
The District first counters that this relief “would be
entirely disconnected from the [jury's] verdict, ”
which contemplated discrimination but not retaliation. Inj.
Opp'n at 3. The District next counters that
“Plaintiff has offered no evidence suggesting that he
is at risk of retaliation.” Id. On this point,
the District has the stronger argument.
more specific evidence that Mr. Robinson is likely to face
retaliation, forbidding retaliation-which is already
forbidden by Title VII-is not necessary for the Court to
address Mr. Robinson's harm. Ms. Sutter, the individual
who discriminated against Mr. Robinson, no longer works for
the District. Mr. Robinson's conclusory assertion that
“Ms. Sutter may now or in the future be employed by
[the District]” does not convince the Court that Ms.
Sutter is reasonably likely to ever be in a position to
retaliate against Mr. Robinson. Inj. Mot. at 2. Moreover,
without additional evidence, the mere fact that Mr.
Robinson's current supervisor testified for the District
is not enough to show that the supervisor is likely to
retaliate against Mr.
Because the Court cannot conclude that there is a
“reasonable expectation” that retaliation will
occur, the Court declines to impose injunctive relief
addressing retaliation. Bundy v. Jackson, 641 F.2d
934, 946 n.13 (D.C. Cir. 1981); see also Spencer v.
General Elec. Co., 894 F.2d 651, 660 (4th Cir. 1990)
(declining to award injunctive relief to Title VII plaintiff
where the action involved “an isolated incident of one
supervisor run amok, ” and the supervisor was no longer
employed by the defendant) abrogated on other grounds by
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 13 (1992).
Mr. Robinson argues that the District should be enjoined from
further discriminating against him because of his race. Inj.
Mot. at 3. Title VII expressly provides that, after a finding
of liability, “the court may enjoin the [defendant]
from engaging in [the] unlawful employment practice [in
question].” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g)(1). That said,
“[a]lthough enjoining a defendant from further acts of
discrimination is a typical remedy in Title VII cases, [the
D.C. Circuit] has never held that it is a mandatory remedy .
. . .” Johnson v. Brock, 810 F.2d 219, 225
(D.C. Cir. 1987). And the Seventh Circuit has reasoned that
where “the proscribed discriminatory practice has been
terminated and there is little likelihood of recurrence,
” a court need not enjoin the defendant from further
acts of discrimination. Williams v. General Foods
Corp., 492 F.2d 399, 407 (7th Cir. 1974); see also
EEOC v. Goodyear Aerospace Corp., 813 F.2d 1539, 1544
(9th Cir. 1987) (“Generally, a person subjected to
employment discrimination is entitled to an injunction
against future discrimination unless the employer proves it
is unlikely to repeat the practice”).
party's briefing is particularly convincing regarding
this issue. Mr. Robinson argues that “a need persists
to protect [him] from further discrimination based on his
race or color, ” and he again supports this argument
with the conclusory assertion that “Ms. Sutter may now
or in the future be employed by the Defendant or she may
become a contractor of the [District], or she may currently
be or become an employee of a contractor of the [District],
” and in one of those roles have the opportunity to
discriminate against Mr. Robinson. Inj. Mot. at 2. The
District rightly notes that this assertion is wholly
unsupported by the record, and it argues again that a
permanent injunction is unnecessary because Mr. Robinson
“has offered no evidence suggesting that he is at risk
of racial discrimination in the future, ” given that
Ms. Sutter-who was responsible for the discrimination here-is
no longer employed by the District. Inj. Opp'n at 4. The
District again has the stronger argument.
noted above, Mr. Robinson has failed to demonstrate that Ms.
Sutter is reasonably likely to ever again discriminate
against Mr. Robinson or be placed in a position to do so.
Because Ms. Sutter is no longer employed by the District, Mr.
Robinson can only speculate that she may at some point become
a contractor or employee of the District, and that this
hypothetical position would involve oversight of Mr.
Robinson. Inj. Mot. at 2. Mr. Robinson's speculation,
absent any record evidence, does not give the Court
“significant concerns that the District could once
again fail to respond to harassment of or discrimination
against” Mr. Robinson; the degree of concern that
typically warrants enjoining future discrimination.
Jean-Baptiste v. District of Columbia, 958 F.Supp.2d
37, 51 (D.D.C. 2013); see also Bundy, 641 F.2d at
953 n.13 (holding that an injunction may be appropriate where
the defendant “agency has taken no affirmative steps to
prevent recurrence of the harassment, and . . . all the
harassing employees still work for the agency”);
Caudle, 825 F.Supp.2d at 81 (enjoining future
retaliation “where both the plaintiffs and the parties
responsible for the unlawful action they experienced
continue[d] to work for the defendant”); Bass v.
Tanoue, No. 00-0115, 2001 WL 1659158, at *7 (D.D.C. Dec.
21, 2001) (enjoining the defendant from committing further
discrimination when “one official whose conduct was the
subject of this action remain[ed] one of plaintiff's
supervisors”)). The Court declines to enjoin future
discrimination against Mr. Robinson because Mr. Robinson has
failed to demonstrate that such discrimination may occur.
See Bruso v. United Airlines, Inc., 239 F.3d 848,
864 (7th Cir. 2001) (holding that the “relevant
inquiry” in determining whether to enjoin
discrimination “is whether the employer's
discriminatory conduct could possibly persist in the