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Andre v. Bendix Corp.

decided: March 2, 1988.

JANE ANDRE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BENDIX CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, No. 82 C 77--Robert L. Miller, Jr., Judge.

Wood, Jr., Flaum, and Easterbrook, Circuit Judge.

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant, Jane Andre ("Andre"), appeals from the district court's judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee, Bendix Corporation ("Bendix") under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. The district court held that Andre successfully established a prima facie case of discrimination. The court also held, however, that Bendix proffered a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for Andre's termination and that Andre failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that these reasons were pretextual or that Bendix discharged her because of her sex. The district court therefore held that Bendix did not intentionally discriminate against Andre because of her sex. We conclude that the district court's application of the law was correct and that its findings of fact were not clearly erroneous. We therefore affirm.

I.

A.

This case has a long procedural history. Andre filed suit in 1982 alleging that Bendix discriminated against her on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2. Following a two day bench trial, Chief Judge Sharp found that Bendix discriminated against Andre in violation of Title VII, awarded Andre $186,092 in lost wages, and ordered that she be reinstated. Andre v. Bendix Corp., 584 F. Supp. 1485 (N.D. Ind. 1984). Bendix appealed, and this court reversed the district court's judgment because we were "unable to follow the district court's chain of reasoning from hostility to sex discrimination" and were "unable either to affirm the finding of sex discrimination or to determine that the finding of hostility [was] clearly erroneous." Andre v. Bendix, 774 F.2d 786, 801 (7th Cir. 1985) ("Andre I"). We therefore remanded the case for a new trial.

On remand, a second bench trial was held before Judge Miller. This time the district court held that Andre failed to meet her burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, either that her treatment and discharge were based on her sex or that Bendix's stated non-discriminatory reasons for her discharge were pretextual. As a result, the district court held that Bendix had not intentionally discriminated against Andre in violation of Title VII. Andre appeals the district court's judgment on the grounds that: 1) the district court erred in not finding pretext when it resolved all significant credibility conflicts in favor of Andre; 2) the court's failure to consider the cumulative effect of the evidence and to consider certain evidence was clearly erroneous; and 3) the district court erred in assuming that the sole basis of Andres claim was her subjective belief that she was the victim of sexual discrimination.

B.

Only a brief factual examination is necessary because both district court opinions and this court's opinion in Andre I set forth an exhaustive review of the facts. See Andre I, 774 F.2d at 788-91, 794-99; Andre v. Bendix Corp., 42 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1895, 43 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P37,190, No. 82-C-77, slip op. at 1-26 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 10, 1986); Andre, 584 F. Supp. at 1486-1502. In August of 1978, Bendix offered Andre a position as a manufacturing superintendent. As a result of Bendix's written offer, which contained an unusual discussion regarding Andre's logical progression within the company, the district court found that Andre understood that she would be in a supervisor's position for four to six months for training and would then be moved into a manufacturing manager's position. Bendix made this unusual offer because Andre had an extensive educational background and Bendix, as part of its native action program, was very interested in hiring a woman of her caliber.*fn1

Andre began working for Bendix in September, 1978. Because Bendix's organizational structure was changing, Andre's position was changed to genera] supervisor, but her salary grade remained that of a superintendent. Andre's immediate supervisor was Dale Franz.*fn2 Franz had five general supervisors reporting to him, Andre was the only female. Although Franz's initial evaluations of Andre were positive, their working relationship was always tense and quickly deteriorated. During the course of Andre's employment with Bendix, a number of incidents sccurred in Andre's department which Franz felt she handled improperly. See Andre I, 774 F.2d at 788-91. As a result, Franz frequently filed critical memoranda in Andre's personnel file which he did not show to or discuss with Andre.*fn3 Franz's supervisor, Mr. Moore, also filed a number of negative evaluations of Andre in her personnel file.

The incident which led to Andre's discharge began on July 12, 1979. Franz thought that Andre's attire on that day was inappropriate for a supervisor and he sent her home to change her clothes. Andre did so and returned to work. Although there is some dispute as to whether female hourly employees often wore tank tops similar to the one Andre wore, Franz objected to Andre's attire not because it was inappropriate for a woman, but because it was inappropriate for a supervisor. The next day Andre came to work wearing the same type of shirt she had worn the day before; Franz also believed that this shirt was inappropriate for a supervisor and in violation of Bendix's dress code. The dress code, however, did not address what type of shirts an employee was permitted to wear; it discussed only pants and shoes. Franz again asked Andre to go home and change. Andre asked Franz to specify what types of shirts she could and could not wear, but Franz refused to do so. Instead, Franz argued that her shirt was inappropriate for safety reasons. Andre challenged this assertion and went to see the plant's safety engineer. The safety engineer told Andre that her top did not pose any safety risks and he stated further that he would call Franz and inform him of that conclusion.*fn4

Franz saw Andre wearing the same top after lunch. He called Andre into his office and asked the captain of the company's guards to accompany him. Franz testified that he asked the guard to go with him because he wanted an impartial witness to Andre's discharge. Franz told Andre that she was being discharged for insubordination and demanded her badge. Franz then had the guard escort her from the plant.*fn5

After Andre's termination, a separation committee was formed to review her discharge. The committee first decided to change Andre's discharge to a suspension pending a review of her record. The committee then decided to terminate Andre, not for insubordination, but "due to [her] inability to perform the duties of her ...


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