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Bahl v. Royal Indemnity Company

May 28, 1997






Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

No. 95 C 919 William T. Hart, Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, EASTERBROOK and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.


DECIDED MAY 28, 1997

After he was fired as a property underwriter for Royal Indemnity Company ("Royal Indemnity"), Dharam Bahl brought this suit alleging that his former employer willfully discriminated against him and terminated his employment on the basis of his age and national origin. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on both claims. Mr. Bahl now appeals the entry of summary judgment on his claim of discrimination based on national origin pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. sec.sec. 2000e et seq. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


A. Facts

1. Mr. Bahl's employment history

Dharam Bahl was born in India in 1944. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in the United States and worked as a property underwriter in this country for more than fifteen years. From 1987 until his discharge on April 14, 1994, he was employed by Royal Indemnity in its Royal Global Division ("Royal Global") office in Chicago, Illinois. *fn1 His primary responsibility was underwriting international or global property insurance for companies with facilities in two or more foreign countries. As a property underwriter, Mr. Bahl was required to evaluate the risk of insuring a particular piece of property. This responsibility required that he analyze such factors as the construction of the building, its occupancy, fire protection, internal and external exposures to hazards and loss, and the property's history of loss at that site. Based on this information, he determined whether it was desirable to insure the property. Once he found the property insurable, he then determined both the rates to be used in setting the insurance premium and the amount of deductibles allowed. For policies that carried a deductible of less than $100,000, state insurance laws regulated the rate to be charged. When a policy's deductible was $100,000 or more, however, Mr. Bahl, as the underwriter of the policy, determined the rate of insurance. In those cases, he was required by state law to document his method for determining the rate in the policy file. This documentation was required so that the insurance company could demonstrate that it was not pricing risks arbitrarily or unfairly.

Mr. Bahl's title in the Chicago office of Royal Global was first Midwest Regional Property Manager and later Global Account Executive; however, his duties remained the same under both appellations. His supervisor in that office was Raymond L. Trahant, Jr., the Midwest Regional Manager. Mr. Bahl also reported to the North American Underwriting Manager in New York concerning his underwriting duties. The two individuals who held that position during Mr. Bahl's employment were Joe Gray and Al Colosimo. The reporting senior of Gray, Colosimo and Trahant was the Vice President for North American Operations, Alan Driscoll. Driscoll joined Royal Indemnity in 1991 and became its Vice President in 1993; he was charged with overseeing the Royal Global operations of the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles offices.

Within months of Driscoll's arrival at Royal Indemnity in 1991, the two underwriting managers complained to Driscoll that Mr. Bahl would not take direction and was uncooperative. They also stated that, at times, Mr. Bahl's submissions to the New York office for approval were incomplete and lacking critical details. Shortly thereafter, when Driscoll and Trahant were discussing Mr. Bahl's abilities, Trahant assured Driscoll that, although compliance had been an issue at one time, it no longer was a problem, and that all of the Chicago office's policy files had been brought into compliance. Driscoll himself recounted two occasions on which he questioned Mr. Bahl's work and lacked confidence in his abilities as a result of those discussions. *fn2

Mr. Bahl's performance was reviewed on an annual basis by his supervisor, Trahant. His performance reviews during the first five years of employment were satisfactory. *fn3 In the 1992 performance review, Trahant commented that Mr. Bahl "must become computer competent. Do whatever it takes to become very familiar with . . . property filings and domestic rules and regulations in general." R.23 at 11 para. 34. He also noted that an action point agreed upon by Trahant and Mr. Bahl was that "all business will be in compliance with state, Royal USA regulations." Id. at 145. His overall comments, however, were positive:

[Mr. Bahl] continues to do a very good job. Respected by all the brokers for his professional approach. Has exceeded his premium goals. He is very dependable and loyal. His performance is consistent with time in job and responsibilities. He grows to the demands made on his job. R.25 at 159.

However, Mr. Bahl's performance review for 1993 was rated "needs improvement." According to Trahant, Driscoll directed him to give Mr. Bahl that rating, but Trahant did not agree that it was appropriate. In the written text of Trahant's review, Trahant separately rated Mr. Bahl's job knowledge as very good and commented that Mr. Bahl was dependable and worked well with co-workers to accomplish the company's and the regional department's goals. About one week later, on April 14, 1994, Driscoll told Mr. Bahl that his ...

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