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WARE-ROBY v. SHIELD

February 12, 1998

GERALDINE WARE-ROBY, Plaintiff,
v.
BLUE CROSS-BLUE SHIELD, OF ILLINOIS, a.k.a. HEALTH CARE SERVICES CORPORATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 The plaintiff, Geraldine Ware-Roby, filed suit against the defendant, Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois ("Blue Cross"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Ms. Ware-Roby claims she was fired because of her race, African-American, and in retaliation for complaining to Blue Cross' Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Department about her supervisor's alleged discriminatory behavior. Blue-Cross moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

 Background

 Ms. Ware-Roby worked for Blue Cross for over sixteen years before her termination in June, 1996. Blue Cross is a provider of health insurance. In Fall, 1994, Ms. Ware-Roby applied for the position of senior account executive in the National Accounts Marketing Division of Blue Cross. She was interviewed and subsequently hired by James Dalton, a senior account manager. Ms. Ware-Roby began her new job in October, 1994. Mr. Dalton became her supervisor. Ms. Ware-Roby was assigned to service Blue Cross' United Parcel Service ("UPS") account. Mr. Dalton and Ms. Barbara Walsh, a principal account executive, also serviced the UPS account.

 Ms. Ware-Roby's main task as a senior account executive was to act as the primary Blue Cross contact for UPS. Ms. Ware-Roby was expected to establish a rapport with UPS, solve problems, implement sales, and gain a broad knowledge of the industry and UPS. (Pl. Ex. 1). In February, 1995, Mr. Dalton gave Ms. Ware-Roby her first performance evaluation. (Pl. Ex. 2). Mr. Dalton found Ms. Ware-Roby fell short of the required skill level in ten of twenty-seven areas of evaluation. She exceeded the required skill level in two categories. Ms. Ware-Roby received an overall performance rating of "3," indicating the desired results of her job were "consistently met." Id.

 According to Mr. Dalton, at some point after the February, 1995 performance evaluation, he began to feel Ms. Ware-Roby was not meeting the performance expectations of a senior account executive. Blue Cross suggests Mr. Dalton started "coaching" Ms. Ware-Roby to help train her and held periodic performance reviews. Ms. Ware-Roby, however, disputes these assertions. She indicates Mr. Dalton never informed her he was unsatisfied with her work until March, 1996.

 In February, 1996, Ms. Ware-Roby received her second evaluation as a senior account executive. Ms. Ware-Roby was rated below the skill level required in fourteen of the twenty-seven evaluated categories. (Df. Ex. 7). Mr. Dalton found that Ms. Ware-Roby's "level of contribution to account management is not at the level it should be after 15 months in this position." Id. Ms. Ware-Roby again received an overall performance rating of "3." She did not receive a salary increase. When Ms. Ware-Roby learned she was not receiving a salary increase, she complained to Blue Cross' internal EEO Department that white senior account executives who received an overall performance rating of "3" were getting raises.

 On March 6, 1996, Mr. Dalton and Ms. Ware-Roby met to discuss the performance evaluation. Mr. Dalton informed Ms. Ware-Roby her performance was unsatisfactory and she had been rated a "3" instead of a "2" so that she would be able to seek other positions within the company. Ms. Ware-Roby refused to sign the evaluation and drafted a rebuttal memo indicating she had not been given clear goals or informed her work was unsatisfactory. (Df. Ex. 8). On March 14, 1996, Mr. Dalton officially gave Ms. Ware-Roby a verbal warning regarding her performance. On March 19, 1996, Ms. Ware-Roby filed a formal written complaint with Blue Cross' EEO Department complaining she was being discriminated against because she was African-American and was being harassed based on her previous contact with the EEO Department. (Df. Ex. 9).

 On March 25, 1996, Ms. Ware-Roby received a memo titled "Verbal Warning Due to Performance Problems." (Df. Ex. 3). The memo reduced Ms. Ware-Roby's verbal warning to writing. The memo recounted Ms. Ware-Roby's performance deficiencies and assigned her fourteen performance objectives to meet over the following four weeks. The memo stated that failure to meet the performance objectives could result in further disciplinary action. On April 24, 1996, Mr. Dalton gave Ms. Ware-Roby a memorandum titled "Documented Warning/Probation Due to Performance Problems." The memo documented Ms. Ware-Roby's failure to meet her performance objectives and marked the beginning of a thirty day probation period. Ms. Ware-Roby was to meet the performance objectives during the probationary period.

 On April 26, 1996, Ms. Ware-Roby filed a charge of race discrimination and retaliation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. During May, 1996, Mr. Dalton twice extended Ms. Ware-Roby's probation period. On June 13, 1996, Ms. Ware-Roby was terminated.

 Race Discrimination1

 Ms. Ware-Roby argues Blue Cross discriminated against her because she is African-American. Ms. Ware-Roby has not presented any direct evidence of discrimination and thus, must proceed under the burden-shifting analysis of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). Ms. Ware-Roby must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing: (1) she belongs to a protected class, (2) she performed her job satisfactorily, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) Blue Cross treated similarly-situated employees outside her classification more favorably. Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 105 F.3d 343, 347 (7th Cir. 1997); Denisi v. Dominick's Finer Foods, Inc., 99 F.3d 860, 864 (7th Cir. 1996). If Ms. Ware-Roby makes out a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden of production shifts to Blue Cross to articulate a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action." Plair, 105 F.3d at 347. Should Blue Cross meet the burden of showing a nondiscriminatory reason for Ms. Ware-Roby's termination, the burden shifts back to Ms. Ware-Roby to show Blue Cross' explanation is simply a pretext for discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 804; Denisi, 99 F.3d at 864.

 Ms. Ware-Roby easily meets three prongs of the prima facie case. She is an African-American who was terminated from her job at Blue Cross. Further, other senior account executives, all Caucasian, performing substantially similar duties, were not fired. *fn2"


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