Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gethers v. McDonald

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 1, 2017

TERRY R. GETHERS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT A. McDONALD, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS VINS 1, OFFICE OF EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION IN LIMINE [DKT. 69 at 94]

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Terry Gethers (“Gethers” or “Plaintiff”) brings this employment discrimination action against the Secretary of the Department of Veteran's Affairs[1] (“Defendant”) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq. The parties submitted their Joint Trial Memorandum on April 25, 2017, in which Defendant included a Motion in Limine challenging five categories of evidence offered for trial. [Dkt. 69 at 94.] For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         II. Bystanders' Opinions

         Defendant first disputes the “variety of witnesses” Plaintiff offers to “second-guess VISN-1 employment decisions in the aggregate.” [Dkt. 69 at 95.] Defendant asserts the Court may not second-guess an employer's business judgment, and witness testimony offered to support such second-guessing is inadmissible. Id. at 95-96.

         Opinion testimony by lay witnesses is only admissible if (a) rationally based on the witness's perception; (b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.” Fed.R.Evid. 701. Absent an offer of proof that the witnesses in question were present for Plaintiff's and the successful candidate's interviews or participated in any aspect of the hiring process, their testimony regarding the hiring decision cannot be “rationally based on the witness's perception” as required under Federal Rule of Evidence 701(a). For example, witnesses not present at the candidates' interviews did not observe the candidates' expressions, intonation, timing, or other factors bearing on their suitability for the job in question, and could not offer an opinion of the hiring decision based on their own rational perceptions of the hiring process.

         In addition, the Court does not currently have sufficient information to determine that the lay opinions of witnesses regarding the propriety of Defendant's hiring decision would be “helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or to determining a fact in issue.” Fed.R.Evid. 701(b). The fact at issue in this case is whether the legitimate, non-discriminatory reason Defendant has offered for his hiring decision is “mere pretext” for age or race discrimination. [Dkt. 47 (Summary Judgment Decision narrowing issues for trial); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 801 (1973) (stating the standard for proving employment discrimination).] To establish mere pretext, Plaintiff may offer evidence of the employer's treatment of Plaintiff during his prior term of employment, the employer's reaction to Plaintiff's legitimate civil rights activities, the employer's “general policy and practice with respect to minority employment” (McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 803-04), or “circumstantial evidence” that “no reasonable person . . . could have chosen the candidate selected over the plaintiff, ” the employer's hiring decision may not stand. Barry v. New Britain Bd. of Educ., 300 F. App'x 113, 114 (2d Cir. 2008).

         Conversely, Defendant is correct that the Court cannot supplant the decision of an employer, notwithstanding the contrary judgment of other co-workers. While “an employer's disregard or misjudgment of a plaintiff's job qualifications may undermine the credibility of an employer's stated justification for an employment decision, ” a Court “does not sit as a super-personnel department to reexamine a firm's business decisions about how to evaluate the relative merits of education and experience in filling job positions.” Byrne v. Cromwell, Bd. of Educ., 243 F.3d 93, 103 (2d Cir. 2001) (superseded other grounds); Newsom-Lang v. Warren Int'l, Inc., 80 F. App'x 124, 126 (2d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff has not established that the witnesses in question would offer testimony helpful to determining whether Defendant's hiring explanation is mere pretext for discrimination, as opposed to mere opinions offered to convince the Court to “sit as a super-personnel department.”

         Defendant's Motion in Limine to exclude bystanders' opinions of the hiring process is GRANTED without prejudice to Plaintiff offering factual testimony about the witnesses' personal observations which would (i) tend to establish that Defendant's stated reasons for its hiring decision were not Defendant's true reasons or (ii) help the Court to understand either the witness's testimony or determine a fact in issue under Federal Rule of Evidence 701(b). Plaintiff must also establish that any such testimony would be based on the rational perceptions of the witness regarding the hiring process under Federal Rule of Evidence 701(a). Plaintiff is ordered to file any such offer of proof with the Court within seven days of the date of this Order, styled as an Opposition to Defendant's Motion in Limine.

         III. Qualifications and Experience not Presented to or Known by the Decisionmakers

         Defendants next challenge testimony regarding Plaintiff's and the successful candidate's work performance which Defendant asserts was not “known by or presented to the interview panelists or decisionmakers.” [Dkt. 69 at 97.]

         As Defendant suggests, the issue in this case is limited to whether the hiring decision-makers violated Plaintiff's constitutional and statutory rights at the time of their decision with the information at their disposal. However, The Court cannot prejudge whether Plaintiff intends to offer evidence unknown to the interviewers at the relevant time. To the extent Plaintiff does intend to offer such evidence, it is irrelevant. Defendant's Motion in Limine to exclude evidence unknown to the hiring decision-makers at the time of their decision is GRANTED without prejudice to Plaintiff establishing its relevance in his Opposition to Defendant's Motion in Limine filed within seven days of the date of this Order.

         IV. “Me, Too” Witness Testimony

         Defendant also moves to exclude testimony of witnesses who would “recount their allegedly discriminatory experiences with the VA” as unduly prejudicial and irrelevant. Defendant is correct that, to the extent Plaintiff seeks to offer his coworkers' experiences with alleged discrimination as evidence of a pattern or practice of discriminatory employment practices, such evidence is inadmissible. Anecdotal employment decisions do not in and of themselves rise to the level of a general policy and practice. Leopold v. Baccarat, Inc., 174 F.3d 261, 270 (2d Cir. 1999) (finding evidence of other terminations of employees over the age of 60 insufficient to establish a pattern or practice of discrimination absent “a rather elaborate statistical analysis”). To establish a pattern or practice of discrimination, a plaintiff must establish that “intentional discrimination was the defendant's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.