judgment on Ms. Ware-Roby's race discrimination claims is denied.
Ms. Ware-Roby also claims Blue Cross discriminated against her after she complained to the EEO Department in February, 1996, about not getting a raise. Since Ms. Ware-Roby offers no direct evidence of retaliation, her claim will again be analyzed using the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting formula. To make out a prima facie case of retaliation, Ms. Ware-Roby 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." Holland v. Jefferson Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 883 F.2d 1307, 1313 (7th Cir. 1989). Ms. Ware-Roby easily meets the first two prongs of the prima facie case. Ms. Ware-Roby states she complained to Rita Taylor-Nash in Blue Cross' EEO Department in February, 1996, after learning she would not be getting a raise although she received a "3" on her performance evaluation. Ms. Ware-Roby informed Ms. Taylor-Nash she believed this was discriminatory treatment since other senior account executives earning a "3" rating, all of whom were Caucasian, were receiving raises. (Pl. Ex. A P 15). This was statutorily protected speech. Subsequently, Ms. Ware-Roby was fired.
"Generally, a plaintiff may establish a [causal] link through evidence that the [adverse employment action] took place on the heels of protected activity." Dey v. Colt Constr. & Dev. Co., 28 F.3d 1446, 1458 (7th Cir. 1994). Ms. Ware-Roby complained to Ms. Taylor-Nash in February, 1996. Ms. Taylor-Nash told Ms. Ware-Roby she would contact Mr. Dalton to explore Ms. Ware-Roby's claim. (Pl. Ex. A P 15). Mr. Dalton cannot remember when he was first contacted regarding Ms. Ware-Roby's EEO claim. (Dalton Dep. at 68). But after Ms. Ware-Roby complained to the EEO Department in February, 1996, Mr. Dalton gave Ms. Ware-Roby a verbal warning, then gave her a written warning, placed her on probation, and ultimately terminated her.
Blue Cross suggests Ms. Ware-Roby did not officially complain to the EEO Department until March 19, 1996, when Ms. Ware-Roby filed a written employee complaint report. (Df. Ex. 9). Since Mr. Dalton had already noted Ms. Ware-Roby's performance deficiencies before March 19, 1996, Blue Cross argues that any adverse action taken against Mr. Ware-Roby occurred before Mr. Dalton was aware a complaint had been filed and thus, could not have been retaliatory. This argument assumes that since Mr. Ware-Roby did not file a written report with Ms. Taylor-Nash in February, 1996, Mr. Dalton must not have known there was a complaint against him. But Ms. Ware-Roby's March 19, 1996 written complaint indicates she had previously complained to the EEO Department about Mr. Dalton's actions and, based on Mr. Dalton's behavior since Ms. Ware-Roby's February complaint, she believed she was being retaliated against. (Df. Ex. 9). A trier of fact could find Ms. Ware-Roby complained to the EEO Department in February, 1996, Mr. Dalton was informed of this complaint, and subsequently gave Ms. Ware-Roby a verbal warning, a written warning, placed her on probation, and fired her. This occurred all within a span of four months.
Thus, a reasonable fact finder could conclude there was a causal connection between Ms. Ware-Roby's February, 1996 complaint to the EEO Department and her subsequent discipline by Mr. Dalton. Ms. Ware-Roby has made out a prima facie case of retaliation. As before, Blue Cross presents Ms. Ware-Roby's work deficiencies as a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her discipline and termination. And, as before, Ms. Ware-Roby presents evidence that would permit a trier of fact to find Blue Cross' proffered explanation is pretext. Accordingly, summary judgment is denied on Ms. Ware-Roby's retaliation claim.
Ms. Ware-Roby presents evidence sufficient to make out a prima facie case of race discrimination and retaliation. Blue Cross has submitted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for her termination. Ms. Ware-Roby has countered with evidence that, taken in the light most favorable to her, would allow a reasonable finder of fact to conclude Blue Cross' proffered explanation for her termination is pretext. Accordingly, Blue Cross' motion for summary judgment is denied.
Elaine E. Bucklo
United States District Judge
Dated: February 12, 1998