from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Randy S.
employer and its agents appeal an adverse jury verdict in an
employment discrimination and retaliation case.
Randall D. Armentrout, Mary E. Funk, Debra Hulett, and David
Bower of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellants.
Ervin Carlson, Nathan Borland, and Brooke Timmer of Timmer
& Judkins, P.L.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.
M. Boes and Catherine M. Lucas of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor
& Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa
Defense Counsel Association, Iowa Insurance Institute, and
Iowa Association of Business and Industry.
E. Fenton, Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa Association for
terminated employee sued his former employer and the
employer's agents under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA),
alleging they discriminated against him because of his age
and his disability-i.e., his status as a cancer patient-and
retaliated against him due to his refusal to retire or quit.
The case proceeded to trial, and a jury returned a verdict
for the plaintiff, awarding him backpay and emotional
distress damages. The district court awarded the plaintiff
frontpay and attorney fees. The defendants appealed the
verdict, raising various issues. We reverse and remand for a
Regional Medical Center (GRMC) hired Gregory Hawkins as a
laboratory technologist in 1976 when Hawkins was
twenty-two-years old. In 1985, GRMC promoted Hawkins to
laboratory director. As the laboratory director, Hawkins was
accountable for daily operations of GRMC's laboratory,
histology, and mobile services. Hawkins held this position
until his termination on June 3, 2015. At all times relevant
to this lawsuit, David Ness was GRMC's vice president of
operations and Hawkins's direct supervisor and Debra
Nowachek was GRMC's human resources director.
November 2013, doctors diagnosed Hawkins with stage III
breast cancer. On December 4, Hawkins underwent a left breast
surgical mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation
treatments. During this time, Hawkins took family and medical
leave pursuant to GRMC's family and medical leave policy
and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On March 19,
2014, while still undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments,
Hawkins returned to work part-time and used the remainder of
his FMLA leave for partial-day absences through May 17. After
he exhausted his FMLA allowance, GRMC granted Hawkins extra
leave pursuant to its policy, and Hawkins continued working
2, Ness, Nowachek, and GRMC's chief executive officer,
Todd Linden, met with Hawkins, who reported that his doctor
instructed him to remain on a part-time schedule
indefinitely. Linden told Hawkins GRMC needed someone in the
laboratory full-time so GRMC would no longer be able to
employ Hawkins as laboratory director. Linden asked Hawkins
to resign within ninety days. Shortly after the meeting,
Hawkins learned he would finish cancer treatments and be able
to return to work full-time by December 2014. Hawkins emailed
Ness to share this news, expressing that he wished to keep
his job at GRMC and GRMC should not force him to resign. Ness
forwarded the email to Nowachek and Linden, commenting,
"He's going to make us term him."
19, GRMC featured Hawkins in a public advertisement for
chemotherapy services. That same day, Ness and Linden told
Hawkins he had only thirty days left to resign or retire,
otherwise GRMC would terminate him. Hawkins refused to resign
or retire. Following this, GRMC's board of directors'
executive committee met and decided to give Hawkins
additional recovery time. On July 9, despite the board giving
Hawkins extra recovery time, Ness and Nowachek forced Hawkins
to take an unwanted leave of absence and appointed an interim
October 6, Hawkins returned to GRMC full-time as the
laboratory director. Three weeks before his return, on
September 16, Hawkins emailed Ness, Nowachek, and Linden to
confirm that he could return to work without any retaliation.
From December 2014 through May 2015, GRMC reported
performance issues with Hawkins's work.
13, 2015, Hawkins filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil
Rights Commission, alleging age discrimination, disability
discrimination, and retaliation. On May 22, Ness emailed the
GRMC board to discuss firing Hawkins. On June 3, three weeks
after Hawkins filed his civil rights complaint, GRMC fired
filed his ICRA suit against GRMC, Ness, Nowachek, and Linden
in district court on February 4, 2016. He claimed GRMC
discriminated against him because of his age and
disability-i.e., his status as a cancer patient-and
retaliated against him for refusing to resign. GRMC contended
it did not terminate Hawkins for a discriminatory or
retaliatory reason but rather because of his poor job
jury returned a verdict in Hawkins's favor on all claims
against GRMC and awarded Hawkins $222, 009.68 in backpay, $2,
000, 000 for past emotional distress, and $2, 280, 000 for
future emotional distress.
August 8, 2017, GRMC filed a motion for a new trial and
remittitur of damages. On September 5, Hawkins moved for
equitable relief and attorney fees. The district court denied
GRMC's motion, granted Hawkins's motion, and awarded
Hawkins $241, 746 in frontpay through December 31, 2019, and
$615, 208 in attorney fees.
appeals. We will discuss other facts as needed.
GRMC raises five issues on appeal, we need to address only
the evidentiary hearsay challenge because that issue is
dispositive. Nevertheless, we also address the challenge to
the same-decision jury instruction because that issue may
reoccur on retrial.
Whether the District Court Erred in Admitting
generally review challenges to district court decisions to
exclude or admit evidence for an abuse of discretion.
State v. Jordan, 663 N.W.2d 877, 879 (Iowa 2003).
However, we review challenges to hearsay and other evidence
implicating the interpretation of a rule of evidence for
correction of errors at law. State v. Paredes, 775
N.W.2d 554, 560 (Iowa 2009). We also apply this standard of
correction of errors at law "to determin[e] whether
statements come within an exception to the general
prohibition on hearsay evidence." Id. Finally,
unless the record shows the contrary, we presume improperly
admitted hearsay evidence is prejudicial to the nonoffering
party. State v. Elliott, 806 N.W.2d 660, 669 (Iowa
'Hearsay' means a statement that: (1) The declarant
does not make while testifying at the current trial or
hearing; and (2) A party offers into evidence to prove the
truth of the matter asserted in the statement." Iowa R.
Evid. 5.801(c). We must analyze the purposes for
which a party offers the alleged hearsay to determine if it
is admissible. State v. Sowder, 394 N.W.2d 368, 371
(Iowa 1986); State v. Horn, 282 N.W.2d 717, 724
(Iowa 1979). We do not rely on the purpose urged by the party
offering the alleged hearsay; rather we look at the true
purpose for which the party offered the testimony.