Cassotto v. Potter et al
ORDER granting 70 Motion in Limine on the issue regarding the grievance decision. See attached Ruling. Signed by Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons on 10/23/2012. (Garcia, M.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
JOHN POTTER, POSTMASTER
GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
CIV. NO. 3:09CV1303(HBF)
RULING ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION IN LIMINE [DOC. # 70]
In this case, plaintiff Robert Cassotto alleges that the
defendant retaliated against him by terminating his employment
on November 26, 2008 because of previous complaints of
discrimination on the basis of age, disability and religion.
Defendant filed a motion in limine [doc. # 70] anticipating
three evidentiary issues at trial, two of which were resolved by
agreement of the parties at the October 16th pre-trial
conference. The remaining issue concerns the admission at trial
of the grievance decision that upheld the Postal Service’s
termination of Cassotto’s employment.
Defendant seeks to admit the grievance decision pursuant to
Collins v. N.Y. City Transit Authority, 305 F.3d 113 (2d Cir.
2002), which held that “[w]here an employee's ultimate
termination depends upon, and is allowed by, a decision of an
independent and unbiased arbitrator based on substantial
evidence after a fair hearing, the arbitration decision has
probative weight regarding the requisite causal link between an
employee's termination and the employer's illegal motive.” Id.
Plaintiff argued at the pre-trial conference that the
grievance should be excluded because it is unfairly prejudicial
under Federal Rule of Evidence 403.
In Collins, the Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of
summary judgment on a Title VII retaliation claim on the basis
of a negative arbitration decision. The Court held that,
a negative arbitration decision rendered under a CBA does
not preclude a Title VII action by a discharged employee.
See Gardner-Denver, 415 U.S. at 45-60, 60 n. 21, 94 S.Ct.
1011. However, a decision by an independent tribunal that
is not itself subject to a claim of bias will attenuate a
plaintiff's proof of the requisite causal link.
Collins, 305 F.3d at 119.
In light of the record before the Court, the grievance
decision satisfies the Collins test, requiring that the
grievance be the decision of an independent and unbiased
arbitrator, and based on substantial evidence after a fair
hearing. Here, the grievance was considered by Step B
Representatives Thomas Bresnahan and Charles Page. Mr. Cassotto
testified in his deposition that he did not know these
representatives, and there is no evidence that either
representative was partial to plaintiff or the defendant.
representatives considered numerous exhibits, including a
statement from the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s letter to the
postmaster, the notice of removal, and the prior Step B
Decision, which were relied on to support the decision against
plaintiff. The grievance decision is based on the same facts
upon which plaintiff relies on in this case and supported by the
evidence considered. For these reasons, the decision is highly
probative of the absence of discriminatory intent on the part of
the defendant. See Munafo v. Metropolitan Transportation
Authority, 2003 WL 21799913 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 22, 2003) (denying
plaintiff’s motion to exclude the arbitration decision, applying
Next, the Court considers whether the grievance is
excludable under Federal Rule of Evidence 403.1 Rule 403 provides
Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its
probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger
of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading
the jury, or by consideration of undue delay, waste of
time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
The argument pressed by plaintiff is that the probative
value of the decision is substantially outweighed by the danger
By his argument, plaintiff concedes the decision is
of unfair prejudice because the decision is similar to the case
to be tried to the jury. The fact that adverse evidence will
prejudice a party does not act as an automatic bar. Here, other
than the fact of the decision, there is no evidence that
undermines the decision’s reliability, such as an indication
that the decision was factually or legally flawed, failed to
consider critical evidence, or did not consider new evidence,
which would render it unfairly prejudicial. The Court is
persuaded by the reasoning in Collins that arbitration decisions
that satisfy the Collins test are highly probative; and, here,
the highly probative nature of the grievance decision is not
substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice.
In an abundance of caution, as in Ward v. State of
Connecticut, Department of Administrative Services, 3:04cv1217
(MRK)2, the Court intends to issue a limiting jury instruction
addressing the weight, if any, that the jury may give the
decision. Furthermore, this Ruling is without prejudice to the
plaintiff objecting to any specific part of the grievance
decision for reasons beyond those addressed in this Ruling.
In a supplemental brief [doc. # 74] filed on October 22,
2012, the defendant brought to the Court’s attention the Ward
case and the limiting instruction read to the jury concerning
the weight to be accorded to the grievance decision.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s Motion in Limine
concerning the grievance decision [doc. #70] is GRANTED. This is
not a recommended ruling.
The parties consented to proceed
before a United States Magistrate Judge [doc. #25] on December
9, 2009, with appeal to the Court of Appeals.
SO ORDERED at Bridgeport this 23rd day of October 2012.
HOLLY B. FITZSIMMONS
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?