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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Sierra Pacific Industries


October 4, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude the testimony of Defendant's designated human resources expert, Paul Finkle. Plaintiff contends that Finkle's conclusions improperly invades the province of the jury, rely on improper methodology, and lack any basis in specialized knowledge that would assist the jury in considering the issues presented by this case. Plaintiff cites the Court's function as gatekeeper with respect to admissibility in that regard. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993).

The Court is unpersuaded by Plaintiff's claim that Mr. Finkle's expected testimony is by nature so unreliable that it runs afoul of Daubert standards. Finkle's credentials show that he has extensive experience in the human resources and management counseling going back more than thirty years. On the basis of that experience, he is qualified to opine whether Defendant's management acted within the appropriate standard of care in acting upon, and responding to, complaints of disparate treatment and/or harassment. Finkle can further testify as to the adequacy of Defendant's policies and procedures in those areas. That testimony may well assist the jury in reaching the ultimate conclusion in this matter: whether or not Defendant is liable for any discrimination, retaliation and/or harassment that Elshenawy may have endured.

Consequently, Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Finkle's testimony in its entirety must necessarily fail. To the extent that Plaintiff claims that the basis for Finkle's opinions are incomplete and/or erroneous, those contentions can adequately be addressed through vigorous cross-examination, and the jury can decide what weight, if any, to accord Finkle's testimony. With respect to the scope of Finkle's testimony, however, Plaintiff correctly points out that Finkle cannot offer direct testimony with regard to the ultimate legal conclusions that the jury must decide: whether or not Elshenawy suffered disparate treatment, whether or not retaliation against Elshenawy for engaging in protected activities took place, and whether or not a hostile work environment may have existed.

The Court agrees that testimony to that effect by Finkle would impermissibly usurp the jury's role in deciding this case. The Court will monitor Finkle's testimony during the course of trial to ensure that this does not occur. In accordance with the provisions of Federal Rule of Evidence 408(a), which protects "conduct or statement made in compromise negotiations", the Court will further ensure that Finkle does not offer testimony predicated on the content of any mediation statement submitted by Plaintiff in connection with attempting to settle this matter. Imposing a blanket prohibition on Finkle's testimony altogether, however, as Plaintiff advocates through this Motion, is not indicated. Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Finkle's testimony (ECF No. 58) is accordingly DENIED,*fn1 but Finkle's testimony at trial will be subject to the conditions enumerated above.*fn2


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