and nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to fire Pritchard. It has done so.
Generally, an employee may be fired for "any reason ... not proscribed by a Congressional statute." Kahn v. United States Secretary of Labor, 64 F.3d 271, 279 (7th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). Here, MacNeal has stated that it fired Pritchard for her poor performance. Nowhere does Congress proscribe firing someone for poor performance. In fact, "employers fire people every day[,] [and] perhaps the most common criterion for choosing whom to fire is which employees perform a job better or worse than others." Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Telephone Co., 47 F.3d 928, 934 (7th Cir. 1995). Thus, MacNeal has met its burden of proffering a legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason for firing Pritchard.
3. Whether Pritchard can show that MacNeal's proffered reason for firing her is a pretext for discrimination
Since MacNeal has sustained its burden of proffering a legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason for firing Pritchard, the burden shifts back to Pritchard to show that MacNeal's proffered reason is merely a pretext for discrimination. Pretext "means a lie, specifically a phony reason for some action." Russell v. ACME-Evans Co., 51 F.3d 64, 68 (7th Cir. 1995). Thus, it is not enough for Pritchard to allege that MacNeal's decision was wrong; see McCoy v. WGN Continental Broad. Co., 957 F.2d 368, 373 (7th Cir. 1992); she must show that MacNeal is lying about firing Pritchard because of her unsatisfactory performance. See Russell, 51 F.3d at 68.
Pritchard's self-serving claims that she was performing her job duties adequately are insufficient to counter MacNeal's assessment of her performance. See Dey v. Colt Constr. & Dev. Co., 28 F.3d 1446, 1460 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Pritchard can show that, or at least create a question of fact about whether, MacNeal's reason for firing her was mere pretext by specifically refuting facts that allegedly support MacNeal's claim of performance deficiencies. See id. However, she has identified nothing to indicate that MacNeal's proffered reason for firing her is a pretext for discrimination.
The only evidence that can possibly support an inference of pretext is Pritchard's claim that her supervisor, Cenci, "picked on" and "harassed" her. However, Pritchard concedes that he did the same to other employees, (Pritchard Dep. at 209), which defeats the inference that Cenci was discriminating against Pritchard. Moreover, both Cenci and Rea told Pritchard that nurses and doctors had complained about her cleaning, (Pritchard Dep. at 195, 209-10, 243, 245), which supports the inference that Pritchard's performance really was deficient. In addition, instead of firing Pritchard immediately after her 90-day probation period ended in December 1993, Cenci gave her an additional 90 days in which to improve her performance. This action by Cenci also undermines an inference of pretext, since it allowed Pritchard a chance to improve and remain a MacNeal employee. Finally, it was not Cenci, but Leveque and Rea, who ultimately decided to fire Pritchard. Thus, even if Cenci harbored some ill will towards Pritchard because of her knee problems or for any other reason, Cenci was not the one to fire Pritchard.
Thus, Pritchard has "failed utterly to rebut [MacNeal's] valid, nondiscriminatory reasons" for firing her. Roth, 57 F.3d at 1459. MacNeal, on the other hand, has presented plenty of evidence showing that it fired Pritchard not because of her alleged disability but because of her poor performance. Because Pritchard has not met her burden of demonstrating that MacNeal's proffered reason for firing her is merely a pretext for discrimination against her based on her alleged disability, MacNeal deserves summary judgment on Pritchard's disability discrimination claim under the Rehabilitation Act.
Accordingly, the court grants MacNeal's motion for summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, Pritchard's motion to strike summary judgment evidence is denied; MacNeal's motion for summary judgment is granted; and judgment is entered for MacNeal and against Pritchard.
Date: APR 21 1997
JAMES H. ALESIA
United States District Judge