sufficed to demonstrate that plaintiff was not qualified for a partnership position was frivolous. However, this same argument presented as a non-discriminatory reason for their not making her a partner was not. Even at the summary judgment stage, once a defendant in a Title VII case proffers a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its actions, the burden rests on the plaintiff to come forward with evidence creating a genuine issue of fact as to the credence of this proffer. Peat Marwick was therefore entitled to offer its non-discriminatory explanation, and to shift to plaintiff the burden of demonstrating its falsity.
Yet, while Peat Marwick's efforts in this regard are not frivolous, they are hopeless. Although a Title VII plaintiff must prove at trial that her employer's proffered non-discriminatory reason is "a pretext for intentional discrimination," North v. Madison Area Association for Retarded Citizens-Developmental Centers Corp., 844 F.2d 401, 406 (7th Cir. 1988), all she must do at the summary judgment stage is "offer proof which casts doubt on the veracity of the employer's stated reason for its actions." Stumph v. Thomas & Skinner, Inc., 770 F.2d 93, 98 (7th Cir. 1985).
Peat Marwick presents the testimony of four partners to defend the audit department's decision to withdraw her name from the partnership nomination list in March 1985: Mural Josephson, Paul Snyder, Michael Lavin, and James Coogan. Of these four, however, only one worked with plaintiff after they unanimously agreed to nominate her in the fall of 1984 -- Paul Snyder. Accordingly, it is only Mr. Snyder's March, 1985 (purported) negative evaluation of her which could possibly be undisputed. As it turns out, it is not.
Although Mr. Snyder insists that plaintiff's work during the winter of 1985 was unsatisfactory, and tipped the scales against her, plaintiff has testified that both he and Mr. Bradley, another important partner in the Chicago office, informed her that her work had been outstanding. Indeed, according to plaintiff, Mr. Snyder specifically told her that he was surprised by the decision at the March meeting to withdraw her name from consideration. Thus, there remains a genuine factual issue as to whether technical deficiencies truly account for plaintiff's rejection.
Moreover, in addition to this factual dispute, there is plaintiff's testimony regarding a policy in the Chicago office of limiting the number of women recruited from colleges for entry level positions at Peat Marwick. Peat Marwick insists that this information is irrelevant because it refers to decisions about hiring, not decisions about partnerships, citing Kier v. Commercial Union Insurance Co., 808 F.2d 1254 (7th Cir. 1987); Powers v. Dole, 782 F.2d 689 (7th Cir. 1986); and Box v. A&P Tea Co., 772 F.2d 1372 (7th Cir. 1985). Peat Marwick is wrong.
Preliminarily, it is worth noting that the Seventh Circuit did not say in the three cited cases that statistics about one type of employment decisions are irrelevant to whether discrimination occurred in another type of decision. In Kier, the Court merely held that the district court's refusal to admit such statistics was not an abuse of discretion. 808 F.2d at 1258-59. In the other two cases, the Court held that, relevant or not, such statistics were not sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Powers v. Dole, 782 F.2d at 695; Box v. A&P Tea Co., 772 F.2d at 1379.
This latter distinction is significant because it sheds light on what at first glance appears to be an erroneous approach by the Court. The fact that someone intentionally discriminates against members of a minority in one phase of life surely is relevant to whether he intentionally discriminates against members of that group in other areas. Conway v. Electro Switch Corp., 825 F.2d 593, 597-98 (1st Cir. 1987). As it is, however, statistical evidence of disparate treatment is one step removed from an actual intent to discriminate. The Seventh Circuit will allow district courts to take that step, in furtherance of the important policies underlying anti-discrimination laws. But when a plaintiff seeks to go one step further, to use statistical evidence in one area to show an intent to discriminate in another, the Court has said that this goes too far, and accordingly that more is required to avoid summary judgment.
In this case, however, two steps are not necessary. Plaintiff does not merely seek to present statistical evidence of discrimination in hiring; instead, she has testified to direct evidence of an intentionally discriminatory policy against women at the hiring level. To say that this evidence is not relevant to Peat Marwick's approach to women partners is facetious.
Indeed, plaintiff presents a direct relationship between Peat Marwick's hiring policies and their partnership decisions, one that removes any doubt of the significance of plaintiff's testimony here. According to her, partners at Peat Marwick told her that the policy of limiting the number of female hirees was adopted precisely for the purpose of avoiding a large number of women coming up for partnership in later years. If her testimony is true -- and for now the court must accept that it is -- then this policy alone would allow this court to find that Peat Marwick's proffered reason for not making plaintiff a partner was a pretext for discrimination. Rizzo v. Means Services, Inc., 632 F. Supp. 1115, 1129-30 (N.D. Ill. 1986).
Peat Marwick's motion for summary judgment is denied.
DATE: January 19, 1989