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Sherman v. Motorola Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 26, 2018



          Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.

         In this case, Plaintiff Jeffrey Sherman alleges he was employed by Defendant Motorola Solutions from October 1, 1977 to April 24, 2015. At the time he left Motorola, Sherman was classified as a Senior Systems Engineer, he was sixty years old, and he was the oldest member of his engineering team. Sherman alleges that Adam Quintana, who became the engineering team's supervisor in June 2014, treated Sherman differently from the outset in that he appeared cold and unfriendly toward Sherman. In February 2015, Quintana met with Sherman to discuss Sherman's job performance and, according to Sherman, Quintana asked him when he planned to retire; when Sherman responded that he planned to work another ten years, Quintana's demeanor visibly changed. After this meeting, Quintana determined to place Sherman on a performance improvement plan (“PIP”). Sherman claims that after the meeting, Quintana excluded Sherman from meetings with engineers and customers, which he had typically attended. Quintana notified Sherman on April 17, 2015 that he was placing Sherman on a PIP, and on April 23, 2015, Quintana and human resources representatives met with Sherman by conference call to discuss the specifics of the PIP. Sherman stated during the meeting that he intended to resign, and the next day, Sherman signed a resignation form stating he had “irreconcilable differences with management.” Sherman alleges that Motorola constructively discharged him from employment because of his age and retaliated against him by increasing PIP task requirements after he made complaints of age bias to management.

         Motorola counters that placing Sherman on the PIP was completely appropriate considering Sherman's performance issues. Motorola also contends that Sherman voluntarily chose to resign from Motorola rather than work with management to improve his performance. Motorola also denies Sherman's allegations concerning any references to Sherman's age. Essentially, Motorola asserts that it acted appropriately and lawfully at all relevant times with respect to Sherman.

         Both parties have timely filed motions seeking the exclusion of evidence at trial in this case. Motorola's motion asks the Court to exclude Sherman's testimony regarding a conversation with his son concerning alleged discrimination, as well as evidence regarding events that happened in 2005 and earlier. Sherman requests that the Court exclude certain exhibits and related testimony concerning Sherman's job performance in 2013 and 2014, which allegedly were not considered by the decision maker, Adam Quintana.

         The Court finds Motorola has demonstrated that Sherman's son's “opinion” regarding whether Sherman suffered discrimination is inadmissible and that Sherman's evidence of events prior to 2005, offered to support Sherman's dismissed failure-to-promote claim, is irrelevant. In addition, the Court concludes Sherman has failed to establish the inadmissibility of Motorola's exhibits and finds, instead, that the parties must present to the jury the question of whether Quintana considered the exhibits (or the content therein) in deciding to place Sherman on a performance improvement plan.

         I. Motorola's Motion

         Motorola contends that the challenged evidence Sherman seeks to introduce is irrelevant, unfairly prejudicial to Motorola, and “likely to confuse and mislead the jury.” The Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility of “relevant” evidence. Rule 401 instructs that:

         Evidence is relevant if:

(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.

Fed. R. Evid. 401. Rule 402 requires that “[i]rrelevant evidence is not admissible.” Fed.R.Evid. 402. Finally, Rule 403 provides that the “court may exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. “The district court has considerable discretion in performing the Rule 403 balancing test.” United States v. Tan, 254 F.3d 1204, 1211 (10th Cir. 2001).

         A. Testimony Regarding Conversation Between Sherman and His Son

         First, Motorola challenges testimony Sherman intends to introduce regarding Sherman's conversation with his son approximately one-to-three weeks after Sherman left employment with Motorola. Sherman wishes to introduce this evidence to demonstrate that he did not understand at the time he left Motorola that he might have a legal claim.

         Deposition testimony reveals that during the conversation between Sherman and his son, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps. serving as a Veterans' Administration benefits counselor, Sherman explained to his son the circumstances surrounding his departure from Motorola, and his son expressed his belief that Sherman suffered “disparate treatment, ” of which Sherman had never heard. Sherman seeks to introduce this evidence to rebut ...

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