from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P.
Baloch appeals the district court's denial of his motion
for new trial after a jury returned a verdict in favor of
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. on his claims of
M. Bartusek and Bruce H. Stoltze Jr. of Stoltze &
Stoltze, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.
Christopher E. Hoyme and Jacqueline F. Langland of Jackson
Lewis, P.C., Omaha, Nebraska, for appellees.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Baloch, a person of Pakistani origin and a practicing Muslim,
was employed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (Pioneer)
in the information technology department. After tendering his
resignation, Baloch sued Pioneer and others for employment
discrimination. All the defendants except Pioneer were
dismissed. Following trial, a jury determined Baloch failed
to prove his claims. The district court subsequently denied
his new trial motion.
appeal, Baloch challenges (I) the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting the jury verdict; (II) defense references to prior
lawsuits; (III) the district court's refusal to rescind
Pioneer's peremptory strikes of two jurors; and (IV) the
district court's decision to instruct the jury on his
failure to mitigate damages.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Baloch's claims were submitted to the jury: (1) national
origin and religion discrimination; (2) national origin,
race, and/or religion harassment; (3) retaliation; and (4)
failure to accommodate religion. The district court
instructed the jury on the elements of proof for each cause
national origin and religion discrimination cause of action,
the jury was instructed Baloch had to prove the following:
(1) [H]e had a protected characteristic. The parties
stipulate that [he] had the protected characteristic of
national origin because he was from Pakistan and that he had
the protected religious characteristic of being Muslim.
(2) Pioneer took adverse employment action against him.
(3) [His] religion and/or origin was a motivating factor in
the decisions of Pioneer to take the adverse employment
harassment, the jury was instructed Baloch had to prove:
(1) [He] was subjected to offensive conduct by employees of
Pioneer while employed at the company.
(2) Such conduct was unwelcome.
(3) [His] national origin, religion, and/or race was a
motivating factor in such conduct.
(4) This conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive that a
reasonable person in [his] position would find his work
environment was hostile.
(5) At the time this conduct occurred and as a result of this
conduct, [he] reasonably believed that the work environment
(6) Pioneer knew or should have known of the occurrence of
one or more national origin, religious and/or racially
(7) Pioneer failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial
action to end the harassment.
(8) Pioneer acted negligently in creating or continuing a
hostile work environment.
retaliation, the jury was instructed Baloch had to prove:
"(1) [He] engaged in protected activity[, ] (2) Pioneer
took adverse action against [him, and] (3) The protected
activity was a motivating factor in Pioneer's decision to
take the adverse action."
failure to accommodate religion, the jury was instructed
Baloch had to prove: "(1) [He] made an accommodation
request that he be given a place to pray[, and] (2) Pioneer
denied the request." As noted, the jury found for
Pioneer on all four claims.
contends "there was not substantial evidence to support
the verdict of the jury." See City of Cedar Falls v.
Cedar Falls Cmty. Sch. Dist, 617 N.W.2d 11, 16 (Iowa
2000). In his view, "[T]he ever-increasing scrutiny on
[him] caused him to be constructively discharged and suffer
damages after he had complained"; "[i]t was
undisputed that [he] was treated differently than other
members of his . . . team on the basis of his national origin
and religion"; and he "was paid less than other
employees who were employed to complete the same work as
him." Although Baloch does not tie these assertions to
the claims or elements set forth above, we believe they
implicate (A) the "adverse employment action" and
"adverse action" elements of the national origin
and religion discrimination and retaliation claims as well as
(B) the "motivating factor" element of the national
origin and religion discrimination, harassment, and
Adverse Employment Action / Adverse Action
employment action" was defined for the jury as "a
tangible change in working conditions that produces a
material employment disadvantage." "Adverse
action" in the context of the retaliation claim was
defined as follows:
"Adverse action" means any action which has
material consequences to an employee. It is anything that
might dissuade a reasonable person from making or supporting
an allegation of harassment. You should judge whether an
action is sufficiently adverse from the point of ...