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O'Neal v. Wackenhut Services

July 24, 2008

SAMUEL O'NEAL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WACKENHUT SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Phillips/shirley

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This civil action is before the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Rules of this Court, and by the Order [Doc. 252] of the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, United States District Judge, for disposition of the defendant's Objections to Plaintiffs' Exhibit List and Deposition Designations [Doc. 249] and the plaintiffs' Objections to Defendant's Exhibit List and Deposition Designations. [Doc. 250] On July 14, 2008, the parties advised the Court that they had reached agreement as to a number of the objections at issue. [Doc. 273] On July 16, 2008, the Court conducted hearing on the remaining objections. Attorney Keir Bickerstaffe appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs and attorneys John Winters and Edward Phillips appeared on behalf of the defendant. At the hearing, the parties advised the Court that they had reached agreement as to the remainder of the defendant's objections and the majority of the plaintiffs' objections. The parties stated that the only remaining objections were to the following items: Defendant's Exhibits 6, 7, 55, 71, 85, and 100; Defendant's Supplemental Exhibits 2 and 7; and to the designation of pages 69 through 73 of the deposition transcript of Samuel O'Neal. The Court addresses each of the remaining objections below.

I. Defendant's Exhibits 6 and 7

The plaintiffs object to the introduction of Defendant's Exhibits 6 and 7 on the basis of Rules 401, 402, and 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Exhibit 6 is a letter dated April 9, 2003, from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") to Lori Kisch, counsel for the plaintiffs, advising counsel that the agency had determined that the defendant's decision not to hire plaintiff O'Neal was not based upon race. Exhibit 7 is a form letter, dated April 30, 2003, from the EEOC to plaintiff O'Neal, advising Mr. O'Neal of the dismissal of his EEOC claim and of his right to file suit in federal court. The plaintiffs contend that Exhibits 6 and 7 are overly prejudicial and that their introduction would confuse the jury. The defendants disagree, arguing that the exhibits are relevant and admissible.

In addressing this issue, the Sixth Circuit has held that an EEOC cause determination "in the sound discretion of the trial court, may be admitted into evidence." Weems v. Ball Metal and Chem. Div., 753 F.2d 527, 528 n.1 (6th Cir. 1985). The Sixth Circuit has further held that "an EEOC cause determination carries an evidentiary value of practically zero." EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., No. 95-3019, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 26263, at *26 (6th Cir. Sept. 30, 1996). In addition, this Court has recently held in a similar case that "EEOC determinations are not homogeneous products; they vary greatly in quality and factual detail." Johnson v. Yellow Fright Sys. Inc., 734 F.2d 1304, 1309 (8th Cir. 1984). Because of that, there is a "danger of unfair prejudice" and the possibility that "the time spent . . . in exposing the weakness of the EEOC report would add unduly to the length of the trial." Id. Because of such concerns, a district court may categorically refuse to admit EEOC cause determinations at trial. EEOC v. Ford Motor Co.,1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 26263, at *35.

Wright v. Columbia Sussex Corp., No. 3:06cv190, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28096, at *2-3 (E.D. Tenn. Apr. 7, 2008). This Court went on to find that the what little probative value the EEOC determination at issue held was outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice, holding that "[a] jury could attach undue weight to the 'No Cause Finding' and view it as a suggestion there was no retaliation, as opposed to merely finding that the agency found no probable cause." Id. at *3 (citing Williams v. Nashville Network, 132 F.3d 1123, 1129 (6th Cir. 1997)).

In the instant case, the Court also finds that the EEOC determination holds little, if any, probative value, and that any probative value it might possess is outweighed by a great risk of unfair prejudice. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' objections to Defendant's Exhibits 6 and 7 are SUSTAINED, and Defendant's Exhibits 6 and 7 shall be excluded from evidence.

II. Defendant's Exhibits 55 and 100

The plaintiffs object to Defendant's Exhibits 55 and 100 on the basis of Rules 401, 402, 403, 802, 803, 804, and 805 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Exhibit 100 is a letter dated February 18, 2002, from the defendant to a Mr. Doell, extending an offer of employment to Mr. Doell as a Security Police Office. Exhibit 55 is a letter dated March 4, 2002, from the defendant to a Mr. Doell rescinding the February 18, 2002, offer of employment. The plaintiffs contend that the two exhibits are irrelevant and hearsay. The defendant disagrees, arguing that the exhibits are relevant to show that the withdrawal of Mr. O'Neal's offer of employment was not unique or otherwise evidence of racial animus, and that the defendant had rescinded offers of employment to white applicants based on unprofessional behavior.

With respect to the relevance objections, the Court finds that Exhibits 55 and 100 are not relevant at this time. However, should the plaintiffs argue or put on evidence at trial that the withdrawal of Mr. O'Neals offer of employment was discriminatory and/or disparate treatment premised on Mr. O'Neal's race, and was not based on alleged misconduct or unprofessional behavior, then the Court finds that Exhibits 55 and 100 would be relevant as to the defendant's defenses and evidence to rebut such allegations of discrimination. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' relevance objections to Defendant's Exhibit 55 and 100 are SUSTAINED at this time only, with the potential for admission being reserved for trial.

With respect to the objections on the basis of hearsay, the plaintiffs' objections are OVERRULED. Should the defendant fail to lay the proper groundwork for the admission of the exhibits at trial, the plaintiffs may renew their hearsay objections at that time.

III. Defendant's Exhibit 71

The plaintiffs object to Defendant's Exhibit 71 on the basis of Rules 401, 402, 403, 802, 803, 804, 805, 901, and 902 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Exhibit 71 is submitted pursuant to the Protective Order [Doc. 14] in this matter, so the Court will not disclose the contents of the document, but instead will merely state that the document describes the interview practices and procedures approved by the defendant. The plaintiffs contend that the document is irrelevant, because the interview process itself is not at issue in this matter, but rather that the hiring manager allegedly ignored the results of the interview process. The plaintiffs further contend that this evidence is hearsay, that the defendant has not established that the exhibit falls within an exception to the hearsay rules, and that the exhibit has not been properly authenticated. The defendant disagrees, arguing that the exhibit is relevant, admissible, and that the proper groundwork for the admission of the document will be established at trial.

With respect to the plaintiffs' objection on the basis of relevance, the Court finds that Exhibit 71 is relevant with respect to the defendant's alleged evidence of non-discrimination and efforts at training its managers and supervisors in non-discriminatory hiring practices. Additionally, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have not shown that the probative value of Exhibit 71 is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury, or any of the ...


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