deficiencies. Furthermore, Balsamo may have improved her performance, where Farmer continued to decline.
Regarding Hardt, how can one possibly compare Farmer's situation to the fact that Hardt was criticized for improper diary control and placed on written warning? What was Hardt's performance like prior to the criticism? What was it like after? Once again, the Court fails to see a continuous, ongoing pattern of deficient performance that is present when reviewing Farmer's performance.
Accordingly, the Court must conclude that Farmer failed to establish that similarly situated white individuals performed in a similarly deficient manner, but were treated less harshly. Thus, Farmer failed to establish a prima facie case of racial discrimination and Continental is entitled to summary judgment.
Farmer also alleges that she was demoted in retaliation for complaining about wage disparities between black and white employees. Retaliation cases are analyzed under a variant of the McDonnell Douglas test. To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Farmer must show that: (1) she engaged in statutorily protected expression; (2) she suffered an adverse action by her employer; and (3) there is a causal link between the protected expression and the adverse action. Dey v. Colt Constr. & Dev. Co., 28 F.3d 1446, 1457 (7th Cir. 1994).
Continental concedes the first two elements of the prima facie case, but argues that Farmer cannot establish a causal link between her complaints about wage disparities and her demotion -- the third element of her prima facie case. The Court disagrees.
Farmer complained to Finch about perceived wage disparities in August 1993. Finch deferred the issue to Avery. On February 28, 1994, Farmer submitted a memo to Avery complaining about the wage disparities. Two days later, Farmer was demoted. Just prior to her demotion, but after the February 28, 1994, memo was sent, Finch, Rabbitt, and Avery met to discuss Farmer's situation. Thus, one could infer that Avery informed Finch -- who had ultimate responsibility for demoting Farmer -- about Farmer's wage disparity concerns at the meeting. And, because the demotion occurred shortly after the meeting, one could infer that Farmer was demoted based on her complaints about wage disparities. Dey, 28 F.3d at 1458 ("Generally, a plaintiff may establish such a [causal] link through evidence that the discharge took place on the heels of protected activity."). Accordingly, Farmer has established a prima facie case of retaliation.
Now -- at the second step of the McDonnell Douglas test -- Continental must establish a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Farmer's demotion. It does that -- it claims that Farmer was demoted as a result of her poor performance. As discussed above, there is substantial evidence of Farmer's performance deficiencies.
At the third step of the McDonnell Douglas test, Farmer must show that Continental's reason for her demotion is pretextual and that the real reason was discriminatory -- in retaliation for her complaints about wage disparities. Farmer's evidence of pretext consists of the racist remarks made by Finch to Jackson and Hardt (discussed when analyzing Farmer's direct evidence claim of disparate treatment) and her denial of many of the claims of poor performance attributed to her by Finch and Rabbitt.
The Court cannot accept Farmer's position. Farmer wants the Court to believe that because she created factual disputes as to whether some of the alleged deficient conduct on her part actually occurred and Finch's racist comments months before the demotion decision, Finch and Rabbitt's credibility is now in question and the jury must now decide whether she was terminated in retaliation for complaining about wage disparities. Because of the large amount of undisputed evidence of Farmer's performance deficiencies (as discussed when analyzing her disparate treatment claim under the indirect method), the Court disagrees. In the Court's opinion, the evidence establishes that Farmer was terminated due to deficient performance and not in retaliation for complaining about wage disparities.
Continental is entitled to summary judgment on Farmer's disparate treatment and retaliation claims.
Summary Judgment is, therefore, entered in favor of defendant, The Continental Insurance Company and against the plaintiff Joann Farmer.
Date: FEB 24 1997
JAMES H. ALESIA
United States District Judge
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
Decision by Court. This action came to a hearing before the Court. The issues have been heard and a decision has been rendered.
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted. Plaintiff's motion to strike portions of Finch's affidavit is denied as moot. Court enters judgment in favor of defendant The Continental Insurance Company and against plaintiff Jo Ann Farmer. Case closed.
February 24, 1997