May 21, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 6839 - Jorge
L. Alonso, Judge.
Flaum, Kanne, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
O'Donnell filed suit against her former employer, Caine
Weiner Company, LLC, alleging unequal pay due to gender
discrimination and retaliation. She lost on all counts at a
jury trial. She filed a motion for a new trial on numerous
grounds, including that the allegedly erroneous jury
instructions and verdict forms prejudiced her case, but the
district court denied her motion. We affirm.
O'Donnell learned that her employer paid her less than
her male peers and came to believe that sex-based
discrimination explained the pay disparity. She attempted to
raise this issue with several people inside the company,
including human resources and the Chief Commercial Officer.
O'Donnell told multiple Caine Weiner officials that she
was going to file a complaint with the EEOC.
shared a desk with her supervisor where she apparently
discovered performance evaluations of a couple of her male
colleagues in a drawer. O'Donnell believed the
evaluations confirmed that Caine Weiner paid the male
colleagues more than it paid her for substantially the same
work. She took the performance evaluations, made copies of
them, and prepared to submit them to the EEOC as proof for
her claim. After Caine Weiner learned that O'Donnell took
other employees' performance reports without
authorization, it initially suspended her and ultimately
terminated her. O'Donnell believes she was terminated in
retaliation for her complaints about unequal pay, but Caine
Weiner maintains that it terminated her for stealing
subsequently filed this action in the Northern District of
Illinois alleging four claims: (1) sex-based wage
discrimination under the Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. §
206(d)); (2) sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.);
(3) Retaliation under Title VII; and (4) Retaliation under
the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3)).
Caine Weiner moved for summary judgment, but the district
court denied the motion.
to trial, the parties submitted various motions in
limine and proposed jury instructions. O'Donnell
submitted three separate sets of proposed jury instructions.
The defense also submitted its own proposed instructions. The
case proceeded to trial and the district court administered
instructions based on the Seventh Circuit's Model
jury returned a verdict for Caine Weiner on all counts.
O'Donnell moved for a new trial, raising a host of
alleged trial errors. Relevant to this appeal, O'Donnell
claimed that the jury instructions and the verdict forms
incorrectly instructed the jury on the law related to her
claims. She further argued that the instructions and verdict
form were confusing to the jury. O'Donnell also
maintained that the district court improperly allowed Caine
Weiner to assert an affirmative defense based on her previous
salary amounts, especially because Caine Weiner initially
failed to raise that defense in its answer to her amended
complaint. O'Donnell lastly argued that the district
court erred by excluding expert testimony on damages from a
district court denied O'Donnell's motion for a new
trial, noting that her objections to the jury instructions,
verdict forms, and the exclusion of her expert witness all
related to the issue of damages. Because the jury found in
Caine Weiner's favor on all counts on the merits, any
error related to the calculation of damages could not have
prejudiced O'Donnell's case.
makes two arguments on appeal. First, she challenges the jury
instructions and verdict forms administered by the district
court as legally erroneous and confusing. Second,
O'Donnell argues that the district court abused its
discretion when it excluded her damages expert's
testimony. Altogether, O'Donnell believes the district
court's alleged errors resulted in a fundamentally unfair
trial. We review the district court's ...