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United States v. State

February 21, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND GLEN GREENWOOD, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE OF OHIO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION AND GLEN GREENWOOD, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
OHIO CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Gregory L. Frost

Magistrate Judge King

OPINION & ORDER

This matter comes before the Court for consideration of a petition for attorneys' fees (Doc. # 57) filed by Plaintiff-Intervenor Glen Greenwood ("Greenwood"), a memorandum in opposition (Doc. # 64) filed by the State of Ohio, Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Ohio Office of Collective Bargaining, and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (collectively "State Defendants"), a memorandum in opposition (Doc. # 62) filed by Ohio Civil Service Employees' Association, AFSCME Local 11, AFL-CIO ("Union"), and a reply to each. (Doc. # 66, Doc. # 67.) An oral hearing was conducted on December 1, 2006.

A. Background

This is a consolidated Title VII action brought by the United States against the State Defendants and the Union as well as an action brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against the Union and the State Defendants. The United States named the Union and the State Employment Relations Board ("SERB") as Rule 19 Defendants. The EEOC in its action, however, named the Union as the primary defendant and named the State Defendants as Rule 19 Defendants. Greenwood was allowed to intervene and filed an Intervenor's complaint in both suits.

Greenwood is a member of the Union. He is a Presbyterian who claims to oppose "abortion" and "gay marriage" on religious grounds despite his Union's support of those issues. The State of Ohio has a statute, Ohio Rev. Code § 4117.09 (C), that permits SERB to exempt a bargaining unit member from payment of dues or fair share fees to his union if he "is a member of and adheres to established and traditional tenants or teachings of a bona fide religion or religious body which has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting an employee organization."

Pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code § 4117.09(C), Greenwood asked the Union to redirect his fair share fees to a charity on June 17, 2002. See Ohio Rev. Code § 4117.09(C) (stating that "[u]pon submission of proper proof of religious conviction to the board, the board shall declare the employee exempt . . . [t]he employee shall be required, in lieu of the fair share fee, to pay an amount of money equal to the fair share fee to a non-religious charitable fund . . ."). The Union directed Greenwood to apply to SERB for a statutory exemption. When determining whether to grant an exemption, SERB followed guidelines set forth in a SERB directive. Under this directive, SERB would not grant religious accommodations pursuant Ohio Rev. Code § 4117.09(C) to public employees who hold sincere religious objections to joining or financially supporting employee organizations, but are not members and adherents of religions that historically have held conscientious objections to such support. In its September 27, 2002 ruling SERB concluded that Greenwood's basis for religious exemption was personal, and that he failed to file religious verification of his church's historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting an employee organization. Consequently, SERB denied Greenwood's application.

Greenwood then filed an EEOC charge against the Union on December 9, 2002. See, e.g., New York Gaslight Club v. Carey, 447 U.S. 54, 65 (1980) (stating that after proper exhaustion of state or local remedies, an employee who seeks an accommodation of his religious beliefs is required to file administrative charges with the EEOC). He also requested from the Ohio Office of Collective Bargaining ("OCB") that his fees be placed in escrow pending resolution of his dispute with the Union. OCB denied his request. Greenwood then proceeded to file an EEOC charge against the State Defendants as well. After the EEOC found merit in Greenwood's claim, neither the Union nor the State Defendants accommodated him.*fn1

As a result, the United States and EEOC filed these suits alleging that the State Defendants and Union violated Title VII. Specifically, the United States and EEOC alleged that the State Defendants and the Union did not permit Greenwood to redirect his union fees to a charity, but allegedly made accommodations available to others on a discriminatory basis.

On June 23, 2006, the Union made a Fed R. Civ. P. 68 Offer of Judgment to Greenwood that he accepted on July 7, 2006 and filed with the Court on September 5, 2006. The offer provided that Greenwood's union fees that he paid after putting the Union on notice of his objection would be remitted by the Union to a mutually agreed upon charity. It further stated that Greenwood's future union fees would be sent to a charity of his choice as long as he was still represented by the Union. The offer of judgment also agreed to pay expenses, costs, and attorneys' fees for time directly attributable to Greenwood's pursuit of this action against the Union. Then, the State Defendants and the Union entered into a consent decree signed by this Court, which provides that Greenwood is eligible to recover attorneys' fees from the State Defendants and the Union subject to the collective upper limit of $166,600.00

In the present action, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(2), Greenwood's counsel, Bruce N. Cameron, asks this Court to award his reasonable attorney's fees and expenses totaling $123, 202.70. Greenwood's other local counsel, Donald C. Brey, asks this Court to award his reasonable attorney's fees and expenses totaling $8,972.50. Brey's request is uncontested.

B. Discussion

1. Arguments

Greenwood requests attorneys' fees and expenses on several grounds. First, he posits that 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-5(k) provides for the award of attorneys' fees to the prevailing plaintiff. Second, he argues that he is entitled to attorneys' fees from the Union based upon his acceptance of the Union's offer of judgment. Moreover, he contends that he is entitled to attorneys' fees from the Union and the State Defendants pursuant to the consent decree that they executed. As to the amount of his requested fees, Greenwood argues that his fees are reasonable and not duplicative. Rather, he contends that his hours spent were appropriate. He claims that they reflect the State Defendants' decision to make this case more complex. Allegedly, the State Defendants transformed a simple religious accommodation case into a factual battle over the sincerity of Greenwood's religious beliefs. Specifically, Greenwood references the following:

(1) SERB's denial of his request for an accommodation; (2) the State Defendants' refusal to escrow Greenwood's Union fees pending resolution of the case; (3) and the State Defendants' refusal to enforce the findings of the EEOC by granting Greenwood his accommodation until they ...


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