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Johnson v. J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

March 31, 2015

CHANDA JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
J.C. PENNEY CORPORATION, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

C LYNWOOD SMITH, Jr., District Judge.

This case is before the court on plaintiff's motion in limine. [1] Upon consideration of the motion, and defendant's response thereto, [2] the court concludes that the motion should be granted in part, denied in part, and denied as moot in part.

I. EVIDENCE REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S EMPLOYMENT HISTORY PRIOR TO THE DEFENDANT

Plaintiff first moves to exclude from presentation at trial "any and all evidence or testimony regarding her employment history and records in relation to employers prior to the Defendant, " as well as any summary of her employment history that might be offered by defendant.[3] Plaintiff asserts that any such evidence would not be relevant to plaintiff's claims for claims for discrimination and retaliation under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 2601 et seq., and retaliation for exercising her rights under the FMLA, and that any probative value of such evidence would be outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, or waste of time. See Fed.R.Evid. 401, 402, and 403.

Defendant states that it "does not anticipate introducing evidence relating to Johnson's prior employment history at this time."[4] Accordingly, this aspect of plaintiff's motion in limine will be denied as moot. Even so, this ruling will not prevent defendant from presenting evidence of plaintiff's prior employment history in order to impeach plaintiff, if necessary.

II. EVIDENCE REGARDING THE DETERMINATIONS/DISMISSALS AND NOTICES OF RIGHT TO SUE ISSUED BY THE EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION TO PLAINTIFF

Plaintiff next asks the court to exclude any "evidence relating to the E.E.O.C.'s determination of the Plaintiff's Charge against the Defendant, including, but not limited to, the EEOC determination letter and related correspondence issued to Plaintiff."[5] The Eleventh Circuit has held that a trial judge has broad discretion to deny the admission of EEOC determinations in jury trial settings. See, e.g., Walker v. NationsBank of Florida, N.A., 53 F.3d 1548, 1554 (11th Cir. 1995). Defendant does not appear to contest this point, acknowledging that, "[t]o the extent that Johnson seeks to exclude all submissions to and determinations from the EEOC relating to its investigation of Johnson's Charge, " it does not object to plaintiff's request.[6] Accordingly, this aspect of plaintiff's motion in limine will be granted. All evidence regarding submissions to and determinations from the EEOC relating to the investigation of plaintiff's charge will be excluded, regardless of whether that evidence is offered by plaintiff or defendant.

III. EVIDENCE OF OTHER LITIGATION AND/OR ADMINISTRATIVE CLAIMS TO WHICH PLAINTIFF HAS BEEN A PARTY

Plaintiff anticipates, based upon questions asked during her deposition, that defendant "may attempt to offer evidence at trial regarding other litigation and/or administrative claims to which Plaintiff has been a party, specifically including: (1) Plaintiff filing a worker compensation claim related to carpal tunnel syndrome with a prior employer, Anderson News."[7] Defendant "does not anticipate introducing evidence relating to Johnson's prior litigation and administrative claims at this time."[8] Accordingly, this aspect of plaintiff's motion in limine will be denied as moot. Even so, this ruling will not prevent defendant from presenting evidence of plaintiff's prior claims in order to impeach plaintiff, if necessary.

IV. EVIDENCE THAT PLAINTIFF PERFORMED SALON SERVICES IN HER HOME WHILE EMPLOYED WITH DEFENDANT

Plaintiff next asks the court to exclude any evidence that she performed salon services at her home during the time period when she was employed by defendant as a salon stylist. Specifically, that evidence includes testimony and a handwritten note by Lydia Gipson, J. C. Penney's Loss Prevention Officer who investigated the incident that led to plaintiff's termination, that plaintiff admitted to sometimes performing salon services at her home.[9]

Plaintiff asserts that any such evidence would be "immaterial, irrelevant, would result in undue and unfair prejudice to the plaintiff, would confuse the jury, and would be inadmissible hearsay and character evidence."[10] The court agrees that defendant should not be permitted to offer evidence of plaintiff's performance of salon services from her home as a reason for plaintiff's termination. As plaintiff points out, defendant has never claimed that her performance of salon services from her home was a reason for her termination, and it should not be permitted to assert that reason for the first time at trial.

Even so, as defendant points out, evidence regarding plaintiff's performance of salon services from her home could be relevant to other issues in this litigation. For example, that evidence could be probative of the nature of the relationship between plaintiff and Olivia Baker, the client for whom J.C. Penney alleges that plaintiff improperly discounted services. If plaintiff sometimes cut Ms. Baker's hair at home, outside the J.C. Penney salon setting, that might indicate that plaintiff and Ms. Baker had a special relationship that would motivate plaintiff to offer Ms. Baker special, even inappropriate, discounts inside the salon.

The evidence also is relevant to the accuracy of defendant's salon records, which plaintiff has challenged during discovery. The court is persuaded by defendant's cogent ...


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