Saturday, March 31, 2007

Employment law evidence issues

This great post explains the significance of the evidentiary rulings from the Sixth Circuit in Maday v. Public Libraries of Saginaw.

First, the point of employment discrimination cases is the intent of the decisionmakers, and therefore evidence can be admitted of what they were told, not as hearsay offered for the truth of what they told, but to show what they knew as it affects the question of why they acted. The trial judge observed: this evidence is being introduced "to show the reason why the employer took the action it did in accordance with its progressive discipline policy which means something had to happen earlier."

Second, the case deals with the admissibility of statements in medical records. The trial court admitted the record from a social worker's file, which contained this statement: "Claimant is unhappy with her attorney who told her he didn’t want to be used as a tool for her revenge. He wanted claimant to settle out of court, but claimant said they had not discussed it before." The defense claimed that part of the plaintiff's many issues affecting her mood (other than what the employer did) was that she was not getting along with her lawyer. The trial court ruled: "This document suggests there might be some alternate source of her distress and, consequently, its relevance is manifest, and . . . not unfairly prejudicial."

The other issue on the appeal was the unruliness of the remarks and facial expressions of the defense lawyer, of which the trial court said they more likely helped rather than hurt the plaintiff's side: "Bartos’s actions may have flirted with impropriety, but it is likely that her demeanor and tactics negatively influenced her own client’s case as much as they might have Maday’s."

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