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Reisler v. Giw Enterprises

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 25, 2017



          Kane Judge

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Krystle Reisler's and Defendant GIW Enterprises' motions in limine. For the following reasons, the Court will grant as unopposed Plaintiffs motions in limine (Doc. Nos. 43, 48), and deny Defendant's motions in limine (Doc. Nos. 42, 45).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In July 2011, Plaintiff Krystle Reisler began work at Defendant GIW Enterprises' McDonald's restaurant in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.[1] (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶¶ 6, 8; 18 ¶¶ 6, 8.) In March 2013, a co-worker, James Durham, allegedly harassed Plaintiff at work by grabbing Plaintiffs person and making sexually-charged comments. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 11-13.) Plaintiff reported the harassment to a manager (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 14; 18 ¶ 14-15), who advised Plaintiff that she would address the matter to the head manager (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 15-16).

         According to the complaint, the sexual harassment continued for weeks, Plaintiff reported Durham's conduct again to the two managers, and Durham subsequently began to follow Plaintiff around the McDonald's. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21, 24-28.) In April 2013, Plaintiff allegedly reported the incidents to Mansfield Borough Police and spoke with the owner of the restaurant, Robert Walsh. (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶¶ 32, 34; 18 ¶ 34.) Plaintiff asserts that Walsh accused her of lying and indicated that he would not fire Durham “because he did not want to pay unemployment benefits.” (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 36.) Durham was suspended in April 2013 (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 38; 18 ¶ 38), though Durham's “stalking” purportedly continued throughout April 2013 (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 41-45). Plaintiff resigned from her position at McDonald's on April 22, 2013. (See Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 46; 18 ¶ 46.) Shortly thereafter, Durham was charged with indecent assault, stalking, and harassment. (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 48; 18 ¶ 48.)

         On June 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”). (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 49; 18 ¶ 49.) The PHRC charge of discrimination was dual filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 50; 18 ¶ 50.) After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 51), Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant GIW Enterprises on August 8, 2014 (Doc. No. 1). In her complaint, Plaintiff brings claims of hostile work environment and constructive discharge against Defendant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (“Title VII”). (Id. ¶¶ 52-62.) Plaintiff also alleges a count of hostile work environment and constructive discharge under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq. (Id. ¶¶ 70-73.) Defendant filed an answer to the complaint on January 20, 2015. (Doc. No. 18.)

         On January 3, 2017, Defendant filed motions in limine to exclude: (1) evidence and testimony regarding the re-hiring of James Durham (Doc. No. 42); and (2) evidence and testimony regarding Plaintiff's expert, Carol A. Hughes, M.A (Doc. No. 45). Plaintiff also filed motions in limine to exclude: (1) evidence of Plaintiff's prior juvenile arrest (Doc. No. 43); and (2) testimony concerning the identity or location of a telephone number (Doc. No. 48). On January 16, 2017, Defendant notified this Court that it does not object to excluding evidence of Plaintiff's prior juvenile record.[2] (Doc. No. 62.) The parties' motions have been briefed and are ripe for disposition.


         A. Defendant's motion in limine to exclude the “re-hiring” of James Durham

          Defendant moves to preclude Plaintiff from introducing evidence or testimony about James Durham's resumed employment with Defendant, following his suspension and Plaintiff's resignation. (Doc. No. 42 ¶¶ 9-10.) Defendant argues that evidence about Durham's return in May 2013 has no probative value, “would create an unfair prejudice, [would] confuse the issues, [would] mislead the jury, ” and should be excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 403. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff opposes the motion and “vehemently” disputes that Durham was terminated in April 2013. (Doc. No. 72 at 2.) Plaintiff argues that the circumstances surrounding Durham's termination are relevant to her Title VII and PHRA claims. (See id. at 1-3.)

         Federal Rule of Evidence 403 provides that “[a] 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 United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has addressed how to weigh the Rule 403 factors as follows:

Rule 403 creates a presumption of admissibility. When weighing the Rule 403 factors, courts ‘must appraise the genuine need for the challenged evidence and balance that necessity against the risk of prejudice to the defendant.' Evidence should not be excluded under Rule 403 ‘merely because its unfairly prejudicial effect is greater than its probative value. Rather, evidence can be kept out only if its unfairly prejudicial effect ‘substantially outweigh[s]' its probative value . . . .

United States v. Claxton, 766 F.3d 280, 302 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted).

         Here, the Court is not persuaded that the prejudicial effect of introducing evidence about Durham's resumed employment substantially outweighs its probative value. First, evidence about Durham's return is relevant to the factual dispute over whether Defendant was suspended or terminated Durham in April 2013. (Compare Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 38; 75 at 2, with Doc. Nos. 18 ΒΆ 38; 65 at 2, 4.) Second, the circumstances of Durham's departure and return to Defendant's employ are relevant to management's knowledge of the alleged conduct and the care ...

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