District Pays $95,001.00 in Damages for Sex, Age, Disability Discrimination
PITTSBURGH, PA: Today, Michelle Yackovich, a Certified Athletic Trainer who formerly worked for the Mt. Pleasant Area School District for over 20 years, was paid $95,001.00, after the District and its former Superintendent consented to the entry of Judgment against them on all counts, without a trial, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The Judgment was entered by the court on April 17, 2018. The case was not settled.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had previously conducted an investigation and concluded the District had discriminated against Ms. Yackovich because of her sex, age, and perceived disability. The EEOC found the District’s claims that it saved money by firing Ms. Yackovich were false, and that the District “actually would have reaped a significant savings” by keeping Ms. Yackovich and hiring an assistant, rather than entering a three-year contract with Excela Health. “I am happy the District finally realized it could not continue to pretend it had done nothing wrong, and the entry of this Judgment against the District provides welcome closure to me,” said Ms. Yackovich, “It is particularly satisfying that the District conceded early, and paid the Judgment so promptly, rather than making me wait another year for the inevitable jury verdict.”
The Complaint alleged, among other violations of anti-discrimination laws, that the District expressed a preference, both orally and in writing, to hire a male trainer to cover boys events, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An email from the former Superintendent, Terry Struble containing this statement was attached to the court Complaint. The District’s Answer to the Complaint did not deny these statements were made. After Ms. Yackovich filed her Charge of discrimination with the EEOC, the District held anti-discrimination training for the Board members.
In its written statement offering to allow Judgment to be taken against all defendants on all counts, and committing to paying an award of nearly $100,000.00 in damages, the District paradoxically sought to disclaim its liability. Nonetheless, a Judgment was entered against the District and Mr. Struble, rendering Ms. Yackovich the prevailing party. As legendary appellate judges Posner and Easterbrook explained in a similar case where Defendants included a similar, “we-admit-nothing slug line”:
Defendants think that these are magic words [that deprive Plaintiffs of prevailing party status], but that can't be right. Plaintiffs who accept Rule 68 offers accept the money, not the defendants' self-serving characterizations.
Fletcher v. City of Fort Wayne, Ind., 162 F.3d 975, 977 (7th Cir.1998).