Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, October 18, 2019

Judge rules testimony stays in former Highland principal's pay discrimination case

By John Severance | Feb 15, 2018


BENTON – A federal judge has denied a motion that would have thrown out the testimony of an expert witness regarding pay equality for a former Highland school administrator.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon denied Highland Community Unit School District No. 5's motion to exclude testimony of Dr. Rebecca Summary in an Illinois Equal Pay Act case filed by Karen Gauen.

Gauen, who sued in 2016, retired as principal at the end of 2017. She claims the Board paid her less money than male counterparts for her work as principal and assistant principal. 

As assistant principal, Gauen’s salary was $79,000 plus an additional $1,000 for having the National Board Certification. 

She claims her male predecessors made $105,349 and $95,527 per year and that both had less experience in the education field. 

Her annual base salary in 2016 was $103,997. She claimed her predecessor made $107,825.

According to Herndon's Jan. 22 order, Summary, who was to testify on behalf of Gauen, has two economics degrees from Eastern Illinois University and a doctorate degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She currently works as a professor and is the head of the economics department at Southeast Missouri State University. She has worked as a forensic economist and made a variety of presentations in the field of economics. 

In his order, Herndon wrote that "the court finds that this motion, out of the hundreds if not thousands of 'Daubert' motions the court has had to endure over the years, is the most disingenuous one the court has read. Defendant essentially is simply arguing there is a different way to do this; and since defendant does not agree with plaintiff’s method, plaintiff’s method must be excluded. A difference of opinion does not make it excludable.’’

Herndon relied on Rule of Evidence 703 where “'Unless the court orders otherwise, an expert may state an opinion - and give the reasons for it - with-out first testifying to the underlying facts or data. But the expert may be required to disclose those facts or data on cross-examination.'”

He ruled that the defendants could cross examine Summary and ask her questions on methodology.

"The court finds that defendants may cross examine Dr. Summary on why it feels her method is flawed and may cross examine Dr. Summary to point out any discrepancies as to the correctness of Dr. Summary’s opinions based upon facts Dr. Summary may or may not know," Herndon wrote.

In preparing her report, Summary said, “the purpose of this report is to present the value of economic losses sustained by Dr. Karen Gauen as a result of employment discrimination in pay on the basis of her sex. Dr. Gauen’s past losses are calculated from the school year 2012/13 through 2015/16 and have no reduction for present value. Dr. Gauen’s future losses are calculated from the school years 2016/17 through retirement and are reduced to present value,” the order states.

The defense argued that Summary’s opinions did not meet the minimum requirements for expert testimony and that her methodology was unsound.

Gauen has argued that the defendant was confusing liability issues with damage issues. 

The Board also argued that Summary could not offer an opinion as to whether Gauen suffered pay discrimination.

In July 2017, Herndon denied summary judgment sought by the Board.

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Organizations in this Story

Highland Community Unit School District No. 5 Board of Education U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois