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SARGIS v. AMOCO CORP.

February 20, 1998

KAREAN F. SARGIS, Plaintiff,
v.
AMOCO CORPORATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 The plaintiff, Karean Sargis, has sued her former employer, Amoco Corporation ("Amoco"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Amoco moves for summary judgment on all claims. For the following reasons, Amoco's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 Background

 Karean Sargis worked at Amoco for twenty-six years before her termination in June, 1995. Amoco is a multi-billion dollar global petrochemical company. At the time Ms. Sargis was fired she was working in Amoco's Banking Operations Department. Banking Operations controls the flow of Amoco's money in and out of its bank accounts and generally monitors Amoco's investment income. Banking Operations is split into three different "desks," each relating to Amoco's major operating areas: (1) Production, (2) Oil, and (3) "Corp/Chem." Each desk is run by a Cash Management Analyst ("Analyst"). The Analyst executes wire transfers and monitors bank accounts to determine a daily cash position and to place excess money in revenue generating areas. Wire transfers are necessary to move money to outside parties or between Amoco's accounts. By determining a cash position as early as possible in the day, Amoco's money may be quickly moved into accounts that generate the greatest yields and lowest finance charges.

 Ms. Sargis became an Analyst on the Production desk in July, 1993, after her position in Amoco's Pension Investment Department was eliminated. She began working on bank accounts for Amoco's international entities and eventually added bank accounts for Amoco's domestic entities. In September, 1994, Ms. Sargis was transferred to the "easier" "Corp/Chem" desk. In May, 1995, Amoco placed Ms. Sargis on a thirty day probationary period. At the end of June, Ms. Sargis' employment was terminated.

 Ms. Sargis attempts to prove age and gender based employment discrimination utilizing the burden-shifting method of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). Ms. Sargis 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) Amoco 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. Sargis makes out a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden of production shifts to Amoco to articulate a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action." Plair, 105 F.3d at 347. Should Amoco meet the burden of showing a nondiscriminatory reason for Ms. Sargis' termination, the burden shifts back to Ms. Sargis to show Amoco's explanation is simply a pretext for discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 804; Denisi, 99 F.3d at 864.

 Ms. Sargis has met the first, third, and fourth prongs of the prima facie case. She is a woman, older than forty-five, who was fired. Additionally, other Analysts, both men and younger women, performing substantially similar duties, were not fired. *fn1"

 Amoco argues, however, that, based on Ms. Sargis' inadequate job performance, she cannot make out a prima facie case of discrimination and even if she could, there existed legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for her termination. Thus, the second element of the prima facie case, satisfactory job performance, and the issue of pretext focus on the same evidence.

 Amoco argues Ms. Sargis was a marginal performer when she worked on the Production desk in 1993 and 1994. Ms. Sargis was transferred to the "Corp/Chem" desk at the end of 1994. After Ms. Sargis moved to the "Corp/Chem desk," "Corp/Chem" bank accounts rose from sixteen percent to forty percent of the total average collected balances for Banking Operations. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement PP 102, 103). *fn2" Ms. Sargis was frequently the last Analyst to determine a cash position on the "Corp/Chem" desk. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement PP 111, 120). *fn3" Ms. Sargis did not receive a salary increase or performance award in 1995. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement P 118). In February, March, and May, 1995, Ms. Sargis attended meetings with her supervisor where she was informed her work needed improvement. (Rule 12(M) Statement, Rule 12(N) Response PP 109, 116, 129).

 In May, 1995, Ms. Sargis was placed on a thirty day probationary period. She was required to meet the 9:30 a.m. cash position deadline, maintain an average collected account balance of no more than $ 1.5 million, and accurately execute wire transfers. While maintaining $ 1.5 million as an average collected account balance was an ambitious goal, it was not impossible, as the "Corp/Chem" desk had maintained a $ 1.2 million average account balance in May, 1995. (12(M) Statement P 147; 12(N) Response P 147). By mid-June, Ms. Sargis was maintaining an average collected balance of $ 2.6 million and it looked unlikely she would meet the $ 1.5 million goal. (12(M) Statement P 152). *fn4" Additionally, at the end of June, although only one payment was requested, Ms. Sargis accidentally wired two exact payments of $ 3.6 million to Amoco's Hong Kong office. (Defendant's 12(M) Statement P 162; 12(N) Response).

 Ms. Sargis argues that her probationary goals and thus, Amoco's job expectations, were designed to be impossible to meet. To be legitimate, Amoco's employment expectations need only be objectively reasonable and adequately communicated to Ms. Sargis. Mills v. First Fed. Savings & Loan Ass'n of Belvidere, 83 F.3d 833, 844 n.7 (7th Cir. 1996). *fn5" Ms. Sargis' probationary goals were agreed upon by both the Manager and Supervisor of Banking Operations and were adequately communicated to Ms. Sargis. The 9:30 a.m. deadline was reasonable as evidenced both by the inclusion of the deadline in the Cash Management Analyst job description and by the ability of other Analysts to meet the deadline. Indeed, Ms. Sargis met the deadline at least half of the time she was at Amoco. While the $ 1.5 million average collected account balance was ambitious, it was also reasonable. The month before Ms. Sargis went on probation the "Corp/Chem" desk maintained an average collected balance of $ 1.2 million. *fn6" Finally, the request that wire transfers be completed accurately was reasonable.

 Mr. Sargis also argues she was meeting Amoco's expectations because she received a rating of a "strong middle" performer based on her 1993 performance. Although a "strong middle" rating was awarded, Ms. Sargis was ranked eight out of nine employees in Banking Operations. Further, Ms. Sargis' 1993 performance is not at issue in this case. "The critical issue is whether [Ms. Sargis] was performing well in her job at the time of her termination." Hong v. Children's Mem'l Hosp., 993 F.2d 1257, 1262 (7th Cir. 1993).

 Even if Ms. Sargis could satisfy the requirements of a prima facie case of discrimination, she has failed to present evidence to support her claim that Amoco's nondiscriminatory reasons for her termination were pretext. Ms. Sargis may prove pretext by showing "evidence tending to prove that the employer's proffered reasons are factually baseless, were not the actual motivation for the discharge in question, or were insufficient to motivate the discharge." Testerman v. EDS Technical Prod. Corp., 98 F.3d 297, 303 (7th Cir. 1996). Ms. Sargis loses if Amoco "honestly believed in the nondiscriminatory reasons it offered, even if the reasons are foolish or trivial or even baseless." Hartley v. Wisconsin Bell, Inc., 124 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. ...


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