more than one non-discriminatory reason for its actions, the plaintiff must raise a genuine issue of fact regarding the veracity of each of the reasons or summary judgment will be granted. See id. at 920.
Continental's first nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Driskell is that her position was eliminated. In their briefs, the parties engage in a vigorous debate regarding the veracity of this claim, but their dispute appears to be more a matter of semantics than of substance. Continental is obviously correct in its claim that it has eliminated the job title "liability underwriter" from its corporate lexicon. But this is the only sense in which Driskell's position has been "eliminated" as we understand the term.
All of the duties formerly performed by liability underwriters at Continental continue to be performed by Continental employees. See Def.'s 12(M) P 21. These duties do not appear to have been scattered "piecemeal" throughout the company, but remain concentrated in the hands of employees for whom they constitute a large portion of their total responsibilities. See id.; Johnson Dep. at 33-34. The only apparent difference between "liability underwriters" and "production underwriters" is that the latter have some additional responsibilities in the sales and marketing area. See Johnson Dep. at 33-34 (stating that for those liability underwriters who became production underwriters, their "duties remained the same, and in addition to that they were involved in direct sales, and they would give presentations with the agents if need be"). The similarity between the two positions is further illustrated by the fact that Continental retained two liability underwriters to become production underwriters in the restructured department, see Def.'s 12(M) PP 14, 20, implying that the required skills overlap. In sum, we think there is ample evidence from which a jury might conclude that Driskell's position has not been eliminated but merely renamed and modified: this would render Continental's first non-discriminatory reason for terminating Driskell "factually baseless" and thus pretextual, see Wolf, 77 F.3d at 919.
Continental's second non-discriminatory reason for refusing to retain Driskell is that it believed her lack of experience underwriting policies for health care institutions would be a problem as the company increasingly concentrated its efforts on that segment of the market. In determining whether this reason is pretextual, we must bear in mind that it is not necessary for Continental to prove that its belief was correct, but only that it was sincere. See Bechold v. IGW Sys., Inc., 817 F.2d 1282, 1285 (7th Cir. 1987). The sincerity of Continental's concern about lack of experience is rendered highly dubious, however, by the fact that it selected Michelin Abrahamson to be a production underwriter. At the time these decisions were made, Abrahamson had only one month of experience as an underwriter, and this month appears to have been spent underwriting policies for dentists rather than large health care institutions. Pl.'s 12(N) P 36. Because Abrahamson was only 22 years old when she entered Continental's training program, it is highly unlikely that she had any prior experience underwriting insurance policies for health care institutions. Construing these facts in a light most favorable to Driskell, we think there is genuine question of material fact as to whether Continental's refusal to retain Driskell as a production underwriter was really motivated by a belief that she lacked sufficient experience dealing with institutions.
Continental's third non-discriminatory reason for not retaining Driskell is that it believed her technical and communication skills "were not . . . especially strong." Def.'s 12(M) P 14. This contention is similarly undercut by the available facts. The most telling evidence is found in Driskell's performance evaluation, performed just a few months prior to her termination, which contains a wealth of praise for her technical and communication skills. In the section discussing technical knowledge, her evaluator observes that "[Driskell] has a good understanding of the requirements of a professional liability underwriter." See 12(M) Ex. S-1.
The evaluator also states that "the quality of [Driskell's] work is good. She presents her referrals well and has done a very good job on her audits and program renewal materials." See id. Regarding her interpersonal skills, Driskell "works well with her coworkers in underwriting and those individuals in other corporate areas that we deal with. She is highly regarded by [customers]. [She] also responds well to direction." See id. With respect to communication skills, the evaluator says that Driskell "is a very effective communicator. She presents herself professionally in both her written and verbal communications." See id. At the end of the evaluation, "communication skills" is listed as one of Driskell's strengths. See id. Admittedly, this evaluation only addresses the skills pertinent to Driskell's position as a liability underwriter rather than the full set of skills required to be an effective production underwriter. It certainly does not prove that Driskell would have been the best--or even an adequate--choice for one of the production underwriter positions. But it nevertheless casts doubt upon Continental's claim that it believed Driskell's technical and communication skills were "not . . . strong." This doubt is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Driskell's supposedly inadequate skills were a pretext for terminating her. Cf. Testerman v. EDS Tech. Prods. Corp., 98 F.3d 297, 303 (7th Cir. 1996) ("When the sincerity of an employer's asserted reasons for discharging an employee is cast into doubt, a factfinder may reasonably infer that unlawful discrimination was the true motivation . . . . In such circumstances, summary judgment is improper.").
For the foregoing reasons, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied. It is so ordered.
MARVIN E. ASPEN
United States District Judge