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ADEA plaintiff gets costs, front pay, attorney fees

After a jury found a brush company terminated the plaintiff because of his age, a federal court in Virginia awarded him attorney fees and costs, pre and post-judgment interest and front pay for one year.

Warren Cannada alleged that his former employer, Old Dominion Brush Company Inc., terminated him because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. After a four-day trial concluding March 3, 2022, the jury announced a verdict for Cannada and awarded him $113,283.12 in back pay.

Cannada’s attorneys have now filed a motion for attorney fees and costs. Cannada has also moved for pre- and post-judgment interest and front pay.

Attorneys’ fees and costs

The ADEA requires a court to award reasonable attorney fees and costs to any prevailing plaintiff. Cannada’s lead attorney, James Thorsen, spent 223.24 hours on the case at a rate of $550.00 per hour. His other attorney, Jesse Roche, spent 135.55 hours at $350.00 per hour. Lastly, Thorsen’s paralegal, Kim Maiden, spent 60.65 hours at $135.00 per hour. In total, Cannada’s attorneys ask for $178,412.25 in fees and an additional $5,611.37 in costs.

To justify the reasonableness of these amounts, Cannada’s attorneys filed affidavits from themselves and other attorneys practicing in the Richmond metropolitan area. ODB offers no specific arguments why Cannada’s attorneys’ fees or costs should be reduced, and the court has not discovered any independently. Considering the evidence set forth in the memoranda, affidavits and declarations; the outcome of this case; the legal issues involved; the experience of the attorneys and the other relevant factors, the court finds that the fees and costs are reasonable.

Interest and front pay

The parties agree that, pursuant to that statute, post-judgment interest is appropriate in this case. Thus, the court will award post-judgment interest in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1961.

While the award of pre-judgment interest is discretionary, the court sees no reason why it should not award it here. Cannada asks for the Virginia statutory pre-judgment interest rate. The court finds it more appropriate to award pre- and post-judgment interest at the same rate. Therefore, the court will award pre-judgment interest on Cannada’s back-pay award according to the rate calculated in 28 U.S.C.§ 1961.

Finally, Cannada asks for a front-pay award equal to the salary he would have received had he continued to work at ODB until full retirement, reduced by the amount he will make at his new job with Specialty’s Our Name Inc. as a punch press operator. Such an award, covering almost three years and nine months of work, would total $171,112.19.5  After examining all of the factors and mindful that any award of front pay is speculative, the court finds that one year of front pay, totaling $44,677.83, is more appropriate here.

While Cannada is close to retirement and shows a strong intention to continue working, the court cannot accurately predict how long he would have remained in his position at ODB absent the discrimination. Furthermore, while Cannada applied for one supervisory position immediately after his termination, he has not shown a continued effort to find comparable employment.