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Patel v. Allstate Insurance Co.

January 28, 1997

GIRA H. PATEL,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY,

DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 94 C 7649 William T. Hart, Judge.

Before CUDAHY, COFFEY, and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 20, 1996

DECIDED JANUARY 28, 1997

Gira H. Patel sued her former employer, Allstate Insurance Company, claiming that Allstate had discriminated against her in the terms and conditions of her employment and had discharged her on the basis of her national origin (Indian). Patel alleged that, after allowing her to transfer within the company from the position of a microfiche clerk to that of a cash processor, Allstate failed to provide her with the training necessary to succeed as a cash processor, training which she claims Allstate provided to non-Indian cash processors. Patel also alleged that her supervisor subjected her to other forms of disparate treatment. The district court granted Allstate's motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

From the parties' submissions, it is clear that they disagree on certain facts and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from them. Of course, in this appeal from the entry of summary judgment, we must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Patel. In addition, we must draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in Patel's favor. Logan v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., No. 95-3231, 1996 WL 534196 at *6 (7th Cir. Sept. 20, 1996). In doing so, however, we must consider the entire record. Id.; Powers v. Dole, 782 F.2d 689, 694 (7th Cir. 1986). Accordingly, we will not ignore facts in the record merely because they are unfavorable to Patel; Patel gets the benefit of the doubt only if the record contains competent evidence on both sides of a factual question.

Patel was born in India in 1951. She came to the United States in September 1978 having previously acquired a bachelors degree in economics and statistics, as well as degrees in banking and accounting. She worked for five years for Crum & Foster Insurance as a "rater" (commercial analyst) and was advanced to an "underwriter assistant" position.

Patel stopped working for a year to care for her young child and thereafter was employed by Allstate in 1984 as a "Commercial Analyst A." One year later, she was promoted to "Commercial Analyst B." As a commercial analyst, Patel determined rates for automobile insurance policies. Patel worked as a commercial analyst for three years and then went on maternity leave. After eleven months on maternity leave, her supervisor called her and asked her to return to Allstate in order to work on a six-month project doing work in preparation for computerizing auto rating. When the six-month project was completed, Patel's supervisor asked her to return to her job as a commercial analyst, which she did.

Patel continued her work as a commercial analyst until approximately October 1989. At that time, Patel sought a transfer to the second shift due to child care issues. She was offered and accepted a clerical position in the microfiche department. Sometime thereafter, the microfiche department discontinued its second shift operation and Patel was transferred to the first shift. Subsequently, Patel's supervisor advised employees on the first shift to apply for other positions within Allstate because the microfiche department was being phased out entirely.

Patel applied for a position as a cash processor (with the title, Senior Accounting Assistant) in the accounting department of Allstate's Reinsurance Division. Ildiko Schultz, the Accounting Division Manager, interviewed Patel, as did Tammy Hood and Kathy Kraft, both of whom were accounting unit supervisors under Schultz. Based on Patel's background and employment interview, Schultz concluded that Patel had the intellectual ability to perform the job of a cash processor, though she was not sure she would have hired Patel if Patel had not been previously employed by Allstate. Kraft told Schultz that she felt Patel "could fit right into the accounting department." Because Patel was a current employee and was qualified for the position of cash processor, Kraft and Schultz had no other choice under company policy but to accept Patel as a transfer into the position of cash processor.

Patel was transferred to Kraft's unit on January 17, 1993. Kraft's unit consisted of approximately four cash processors and five account processors. One of the other cash processors in Kraft's unit at the time, Parul Shah, was from India. Shah has stated in her deposition testimony that she had no disagreements with Kraft and "always had a good relationship with her." *fn1 Shah left Kraft's unit voluntarily in November 1993 for child care reasons.

Allstate's Reinsurance Division provides reinsurance to other insurance companies. The cash processors in the accounting department of the Reinsurance Division are responsible for collecting balances or making payments to brokers or insurance companies, reconciling Allstate's records with the records of the brokers and resolving discrepancies (i.e., making sure both sets of records match), applying cash receipts, and inputting terms of insurance policies negotiated by underwriters into the department's mainframe computer system (the "ARES" system). The cash processors are also responsible for preparing a monthly status report on their assigned accounts and for completing follow-up reports on open items.

Collections are accomplished largely through telephone contacts between the cash processors and customers. Cash processors also communicate with customers through faxes and short letters. In 1993, these letters and faxes could be prepared by the cash processor by using either "WordPerfect" software on a personal computer or a conventional typewriter, although it was less efficient to use the typewriter. Two other employees, one cash processor and one account processor, used the typewriter to prepare correspondence because they were more comfortable with a typewriter than a personal computer.

New cash processors are given training that generally consists of two to four months of formalized classroom training and one month of on-the-job training (also called "production training"). Training may be extended if a particular employee needs additional attention. Prior to becoming a supervisor, Kraft developed the ...


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