The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAROVICH
Plaintiff Mary Hopson ("Hopson") filed this action against her former employer, Defendant Continental Casualty Company ("Continental"), alleging that Continental terminated her employment because of her age--46, at the time of her termination--and/or her race--African-American--in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., as amended, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub.L. 102-166. Continental now moves for summary judgment with respect to Hopson's discrimination claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Continental's motion.
Hopson was one of three team members in the MAC Group; the other two team members were Inez Jordan ("Jordan"), an African-American woman born on September 10, 1957, and Sol Shniderman ("Shniderman"), a Caucasian man born on January 27, 1951. Jordan was the MAC Group team leader. While employed in the MAC Group, Hopson's immediate supervisor was Laura Howell ("Howell"), and Howell's immediate supervisor was David Juenger ("Juenger"). Juenger maintained ultimate control over the MAC Group.
Prior to her assignment to the MAC Group, Hopson worked in a different small business unit ("SBU") within Continental's systems group, the GCC Group. Hopson requested and received a transfer from the GCC Group to the MAC Group in 1993.
A. Hopson's Performance At Continental
Hopson's job performance at Continental formally was evaluated once a year. While Hopson believes her performance consistently was rated "average, good" throughout her employment at Continental, in fact, she never was rated higher than "competent," and often received ratings of "needs improvement." For example, in her annual performance evaluation for the period from February 1987 to February 1988, Hopson received a "needs improvement" rating under the section titled "Managing Your Assignments." Her supervisor's comments explain that, "[Hopson] needs to work at managing her assignments better. Although she completes the necessary documentation in terms of project plans/requirements, she is lazy about doing the necessary project planning." (Hop. Dep. Ex. 5)
On or about May 4, 1988, Hopson's overall performance rating was reduced to "needs improvement," and she was placed on an "action plan" for 60 days. Continental places employees who are not performing their jobs adequately on action plans to help them to improve their performance deficiencies. Hopson was removed from the action plan on July 18, 1988.
In Hopson's annual performance evaluation for the period from April 1988 to April 1989, she received a "low competent" rating regarding her understanding of the systems she supported; and in her annual performance rating for April 1989-April 1990, Hopson's supervisor noted that she needed "further development in completing test plans, test schedules and expected results for various system projects." (Hop. Dep. Ex. 7)
Although she received an overall rating of "competent" in her April 1990 through April 1991 performance evaluation, the review indicates that Hopson required "detail [sic] direction and support," required a "significant amount of direction in developing the Method/I Requirements documents," needed to be more cognizant of priorities and needed to respond with more timely and accurate results. Similarly, in her performance evaluation for the period from April 1991 through April 1992, Hopson's supervisor noted that she "needs to be more attentive in following up on production reports routed to her . . . ." (Hop. Dep. Ex. 9)
Hopson's April 1992-April 1993 review indicates her supervisor's opinion that Hopson "could have demonstrated more initiative towards improving the system by actively pursuing and/or making recommendations for moving test jobs to the production environment." (Hop. Dep. Ex. 10) And in the last evaluation completed prior to her termination--the evaluation for the period from April 1993 to January 1994--Hopson's overall performance was rated a "3," signifying that Hopson's work met "the minimum expected level for the position." (Hop. Dep. Ex. 11)
Yet, despite the aforementioned criticisms and/or complaints contained in Hopson's annual performance evaluations and the consistent rating of Hopson's work as minimally competent, Hopson was given a merit increase in her ...