(and it is undisputed) that he received bonuses in 1989 and 1990.
Plaintiff's own assertions that he was performing satisfactorily are entitled to little, if any, weight. "An employee's burden to show that his employer's asserted justification for termination is actually only a pretext for . . . discrimination is, in contrast to what we will accept at the prima facie stage, infinitely more rigorous. . . ." Bush v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 778 F. Supp. 1436, 1443 (N.D. Ill. 1991), aff'd, 990 F.2d 928 (7th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 128 L. Ed. 2d 367, 114 S. Ct. 1648 (1994). Plaintiff does not deny that he received a written memorandum from Evans which was critical of plaintiff's performance. (Plaintiff's 12(n) Statement at 3) ("Plaintiff states that the May 2, 1990, memo speaks for itself."). Instead, plaintiff generally disputes Evans's assessment of his performance. (Id.) Yet, the Seventh Circuit has emphasized that "a plaintiff's self-serving testimony regarding his own ability is 'insufficient to contradict an employer's negative assessment of that ability.'" Aungst v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 937 F.2d 1216, 1223 (7th Cir. 1991) (quoting Williams, 856 F.2d 920, 924); see also Dale, 797 F.2d at 464 (summary judgment for employer affirmed where plaintiff did no "more than challenge the judgment of his superiors through his own self-interested assertions").
Moreover, plaintiff offers no evidence regarding the performances of the retained workers. He merely states that he was better qualified and could accomplish tasks that other members of the Systems Team could not. (Campbell Aff. at 2-3.) The employee's perception of himself is irrelevant. "'It is the perception of the decision maker which is relevant.'" Dale, 797 F.2d at 464-65 (citation omitted).
Plaintiff does, however, present objective evidence that he was performing satisfactorily before the RIF. It is undisputed that plaintiff received bonuses in 1989 and 1990. (Defendant's 12(m) Statement at 6-7.) Neither party, however, has submitted evidence as to how these bonuses compared to the bonuses of other Fasco managers or if those employees received bonuses at all. Plaintiff contends that the bonuses must have been merit-based because he was never authorized to award bonuses to his inferiors who did not perform adequately. (Plaintiff's 12(n) Statement at 2.) Defendant, on the other hand, claims the bonuses were gifts. (Defendant's 12(m) Statement at 6-7.) The court need not -- not to mention cannot at the summary judgment stage -- resolve this factual issue because it is immaterial. Thus, the court assumes that plaintiff was performing satisfactorily before the RIF.
Nevertheless, evidence that plaintiff was performing satisfactorily, in the sense that he would not have been terminated but for the RIF, does not challenge defendant's reasons for terminating plaintiff. "'To show pretext, it does not help for [the plaintiff] to repeat the proof that his job performance was generally satisfactory. That question has already been resolved in his favor. The Company advanced specific reasons for his discharge, and his rebuttal evidence should be focused on them.'" Aungst, 937 F.2d at 1223 (quoting La Montagne, 750 F.2d at 1414). In Aungst, the defendant employer stated that it had fired the plaintiff employee due to a RIF because it needed more versatility on the engineering staff. (Id. at 1218.) The plaintiff attempted to show pretext by offering evidence of a "merit pay increase shortly before his termination; Performance Management System charts that described his good work performance; and a letter of recommendation written by his former boss to help him in an application for a teaching position." (Id. at 1223.) The court held that the plaintiff had not rebutted the defendant's articulated reason for terminating plaintiff because plaintiff's evidence did not speak directly to the proffered reason for the termination -- lack of versatility. Id.
Plaintiff's evidence is deficient in the same manner. Evans testified that the Systems Team no longer needed a manager that did not also perform hands-on functions. (Evans Dep. at 32.) Plaintiff does not dispute that he did not work as a programmer during his tenure at Fasco. (See generally Campbell Aff. at 1-3.) The fact that Fasco had a copy of plaintiff's resume, indicating plaintiff's prior experience as a programmer (Campbell Aff. at 4-5) does not undermine Evans's decision that employees on the Systems Team who were performing programming functions at the time of the RIF were more qualified to continue programming after the RIF. The court will not "'reevaluate business decisions made in good faith.'" Aungst, 937 F.2d at 1224 (quoting Bechold v. IGW Sys., Inc., 817 F.2d 1282, 1285 (7th Cir. 1987)). "'It is enough if the decision was "genuinely and honestly made in an attempt to select the employees to be retained on the basis of performance related considerations."'" Id. (citation omitted).
b) Plaintiff's claim that he was needed on the Systems Team
Plaintiff argues that Evans was wrong in concluding that plaintiff was not needed on the Systems Team. (Plaintiff's Memorandum at 9.) In support of his argument, plaintiff states that he was still working on several projects that were assigned to him by Evans, including (1) "supporting and continuing development of an Engineering Documentation System and exploring and implementing new applications of this technology at the various plants," and (2) "supporting the development of a Purchasing EDI Prototype System for selected vendors for Division Purchasing Systems." (Campbell Aff. at 8.) Nevertheless, if Fasco was mistaken about plaintiff's worth on the Systems Team, this is of no import to plaintiff's claim as long as defendant's explanation is credible.
Defendant asserted that plaintiff was terminated because Evans felt the Systems Team did not need a manager that did not also perform programming functions. (Defendant's 12(m) Statement at 10.) Plaintiff has not alleged that he did perform programming functions at Fasco; he merely disputes Evans's assessment of the needs of the Systems Team. (See Plaintiff's 12(n) Statement at 3.) However, even if Fasco made a bad decision in firing plaintiff, even if the Systems Team could not function without plaintiff, the court cannot interfere. "It is not the court's duty to determine the validity of the defendant's business decision as long as the decision was made in good faith." Dorsch v. L.B. Foster Co., 782 F.2d 1421, 1426 (7th Cir. 1986). "'If you honestly explain the reasons behind your decision, but the decision was ill-informed or ill-considered, your explanation is not a pretext.'" Bruno, 950 F.2d at 364 (quoting Pollard v. REA Magnet Wire Co., 824 F.2d 557, 559 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 977, 108 S. Ct. 488, 98 L. Ed. 2d 486 (1987)).
c) Plaintiffs claim that Evans did not have sufficient information to evaluate him
Plaintiff argues that "Evans did not have sufficient opportunity to form an opinion of Plaintiff's performance." (Plaintiff's Memorandum at 7.) In support of this argument, plaintiff states that Evans's office was in St. Louis, Missouri, while Campbell's office was in Springfield, Missouri. (Id., Evans Dep. at 17.) As a result, Evans only met with Campbell once every three to four weeks. (Plaintiff's Memorandum at 7; Evans Dep. at 18.) Once again, plaintiff asks the court to become involved in the managerial affairs of Fasco, a task the court cannot and should not undertake. Plaintiff has offered no evidence regarding how plaintiff's level of supervision compared to other, younger employees. "The party resisting the summary judgment motion may not rest on mere allegations." Klein v. Trustees of Indiana Univ., 766 F.2d 275, 283 (7th Cir. 1985) (citing Posey v. Skyline Corp., 702 F.2d 102 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 960, 104 S. Ct. 392, 78 L. Ed. 2d 336 (1983)). If plaintiff offered evidence that Evans's lack of continuous supervision was related to his age (for example, if younger managerial employees were supervised more closely), the fact that Evans only met with plaintiff once every three to four weeks might be evidence of age discrimination. However, plaintiff has offered no such evidence and, consequently, the frequency of Evans's contact with plaintiff is not evidence of pretext.
d) Plaintiff's claim that the 1990 performance evaluation was a sham
Plaintiff claims that his performance review in 1990 was a sham -- a ploy to get rid of him because of his age. (Plaintiff's Memorandum at 8.) In support of this argument, plaintiff alleges that he "had never received an evaluation in this detail and format in the past, and . . . never saw such a format again," either as an employee or as a supervisor. (Campbell Aff. at 5.) This general statement, however, is insufficient to show pretext. Plaintiff has offered no evidence that the company did not use such an evaluation form or did not use the form on a regular basis. And, in fact, defendant has submitted seventeen performance reviews of other Fasco employees in a format the same or substantially similar to plaintiff's performance review. (Schulz Aff. at 1 & Ex. 1.) Thirteen of these seventeen reviews predate plaintiff's review. (See id. Ex. 1.) Because plaintiff is unable to support the argument that his performance review was a mask for discrimination, that argument is entitled to no weight. See Anderson, 965 F.2d at 402 ("[Plaintiff's] theory that [his supervisor's] memos and . . . complaint letters were manufactured in an attempt to justify his firing is, at best, speculation, and speculation is not enough to avoid summary judgment.").
e) Plaintiff's claim that the evaluation was subjective and, thus, could mask discrimination
Plaintiff argues that his 1990 evaluation was based on a subjective assessment of plaintiff's abilities and, therefore, is a pretext for discrimination. (Plaintiff's Memorandum at 5.) Nevertheless, a subjective assessment is not per se indicative of an illegal motive. Dorsch, 782 F.2d at 1427 ("A subjective qualification assessment does not convert an otherwise legitimate reason into an illegitimate one."). Indeed, "decisions such as these will always involve a number of subjective factors, and disappointed candidates cannot expect a federal judge to intervene simply in the hope that he or she will evaluate the factors differently. Parker, 741 F.2d at 981.
Plaintiff has presented no evidence showing that other, younger employees were given objective evaluations and, therefore, the allegation that plaintiff's evaluation was subjective does not show pretext. Cf. Christie v. Foremost Ins. Co., 785 F.2d 584, 586 (7th Cir. 1986) (proof of pretext where plaintiff offered evidence showing his evaluations were based on objective criteria while younger employee's evaluations were wholly subjective). Moreover, plaintiff admits receiving a memo from Evans discussing plaintiff's poor job performance. In this memo, Evans identified two specific instances of problems plaintiff had in performing his duties. Plaintiff does not mention these specific instances of his performance problems in his argument that Evans's assessment of his ability was merely subjective. Consequently, plaintiff has presented no valid factual evidence regarding his performance evaluation from which one could infer pretext.
f) Plaintiff's claim that three of the five people who allegedly complained to Evans about plaintiffs performance denied having done so
Finally, plaintiff attempts to show pretext by arguing that three of the five people whom Evans stated complained to him about plaintiff's performance testified in their depositions that they had never spoken to Evans about plaintiff's performance.
Evans testified that employees Dwight Gressel, Rick Green and Kenneth Hammarstrom complained to him about plaintiff's performance. (Evans Dep. at 49, 53, 55.) However, these three employees testified that they did not discuss plaintiff's performance with Evans. (Gressel Dep. at 89-92; Hammarstrom Dep. at 10-11; Green Dep. at 6-7.)
Nevertheless, even if some of the employees Evans believed complained to him did not actually do so, this evidence does not raise doubts as to the genuineness of defendant's termination decision. "It is not enough for the plaintiff to simply assert that the acts for which [he] was terminated did not occur." Billups v. Methodist Hosp., 922 F.2d 1300, 1304 (7th Cir. 1991). Plaintiff's evidence may indicate that plaintiff's skills were better than Evans thought. Nevertheless, "an ill-informed decision or an ill-considered decision is not automatically pretextual if the employer gave an honest explanation for termination." Id. at 1304.
Plaintiff's evidence might be substantial evidence of pretext if this were the only negative assessment of plaintiff's performance. See Jang v. Biltmore Tire Co., 797 F.2d 486, 489-90 (7th Cir. 1986) (plaintiff must offer substantial evidence that defendant's articulated reasons are unworthy of credence). However, defendant did not claim to terminate plaintiff solely on the basis of the alleged complaints by these individuals. On the contrary, defendant asserted that it fired plaintiff because of the RIF, because Evans determined that the Systems Team did not need a full-time manager, and because of plaintiff's prior performance deficiencies. Evans's memo to plaintiff noted specific problems that plaintiff had in ascertaining solutions to problems the Systems Team encountered. (See Defendant's 12(m) Statement at 7-8.) In this situation, the court "does not sit as a super-personnel department that reexamines an entity's business decisions." Dale, 797 F.2d at 464.
In sum, plaintiff has not raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendant's explanation for plaintiff's termination was a pretext for discrimination. Defendant is accordingly entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. Judgment entered on behalf of defendant and against plaintiff.
Date: AUG 16 1994
JAMES H. ALESIA
United States District Judge