Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Emails Offered on State of Mind ≠ Hearsay — in Employment Discrimination Case, Complaints Emailed by Employee’s Supervisor to Her Superior Admissible to Show Recipient’s Belief, in Discharging Employee, That Employee Had Acted Badly

Dickerson v. Holsten Mgmt. Corp., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139425 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 27, 2012):

Ms. Dickerson first takes issue with three emails written by one of Ms. Dickerson's former supervisors, Carol Redman. Ms. Dickerson argues that these email messages are cited by Holsten for the truth of Ms. Redman's statements making them inadmissible hearsay. Ms. Dickerson then argues why these emails do not fall within two of the hearsay rule exceptions: present sense impression or records of a regularly conducted activity. Holsten counters that it is offering Ms. Redman's emails to show that Mr. Johnson discharged Ms. Dickerson in the honest belief that she had behaved badly and exhibited poor work habits. Holsten claims that it is not trying to prove whether the statements made by Ms. Redman, in the emails, are true.***

Here, if Ms. Redman's three emails are being offered for the truth of the matter asserted — to prove Ms. Dickerson's "constant insubordination," that she has "temper tantrums," or that she failed to follow Ms. Redman's directives — then they would be hearsay.***

But such evidence is admissible when it is being offered for purposes other than for the truth of the matter asserted. Specifically, in employment discrimination cases complaints to supervisors are not inadmissible hearsay if they are offered for purposes of "evidence that the employer was acting on the basis of the complaints and not because of a discriminatory motive."

Footnote 41. Valente v. Shaker Advertising Agency, Inc., 1998 WL 242510, *6 (N.D. Ill. 1982) (citing Moore v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 683 F.2d 1321, 1322-23 (11th Cir. 1982)).

Holsten makes no attempt to prove that the statements made by Ms. Redman are true. Holsten simply asserts that the emails support Mr. Johnson's decision to discharge Ms. Dickerson because he believed she had behaved badly. Because the emails are admissible, we decline to address Ms. Dickerson's extended discussion of the hearsay exceptions.

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