morale, the consequent jeopardy to FNB's security, and Prasad's seeming unwillingness to remedy the situation, Janes concluded that the third shift needed a leadership change.
Janes' belief that Prasad was not performing adequately is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for Prasad's demotion. See Anderson v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 965 F.2d 397, 401 (7th Cir. 1992) (poor performance and failure to get along with others constituted a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for an employee's discharge); Szydlowski v. Archibald Candy Corp., 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1862, 1995 WL 68751, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 16, 1995) (customer complaint held to be a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for discharge). Prasad must now demonstrate a genuine issue as to whether the reason is a merely a pretext for discrimination. It is not sufficient for Prasad to show that the demotion was unfair or undesirable; rather, Prasad must show that Janes did not honestly believe the reasons he gave for demoting Prasad. See Hartley v. Wisconsin Bell, Inc., 124 F.3d 887, 891 (7th Cir. 1997); see also Anderson, 965 F.2d at 402 (as long as the defendant honestly believes that the employee is not meeting legitimate expectations, termination is justified).
Prasad first attempts to establish pretext by attacking the evidentiary quality of FNB's justifications. He claims that Janes' testimony about what others told him is insufficient, by itself, to justify Prasad's demotion. Prasad points out that neither Janes nor the complaining employees memorialized their complaints, and that none of Prasad's subordinates ever filed a written grievance against him. Prasad also emphasizes that Janes' testimony is uncorroborated, questioning FNB's failure to secure affidavits from the complaining employees. Second, Prasad questions the veracity of FNB's stated reasons for demoting him. He contends that they are belied by his "accomplished" rating and by Janes' favorable comments about some aspects of Prasad's performance.
Prasad's initial contention misses the point. Prasad is obligated to refute FNB's reasons with specific facts, see, e.g., Plair v. E.J. Brach & Sons, Inc., 105 F.3d 343, 349 (7th Cir. 1997); Mills v. First Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 83 F.3d 833, 846 (7th Cir. 1996), not with attacks on the weight of evidence that the Court has deemed admissible. That complaints were oral rather than written -- for whatever reason -- is not evidence that Janes lied about receiving them. See Tonella v. Environmental Sys. Design, Inc., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2727, 1997 WL 112837, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 10, 1997) (it is irrelevant, for purposes of determining pretext, that supervisor never received written complaints about plaintiff). At best, Prasad's assertions attack only the wisdom of Janes' reassignment decision, not its honesty. Courts have consistently refused to review personnel decisions for fairness. Anderson, 965 F.2d at 403-04 ("Neither the jury nor this Court is empowered to act as a 'super-personnel department' and decide if [a] firing was unwise or unjustified."). In short, Prasad offers no specific facts from which we can infer that Janes was lying about why he demoted Prasad. Consequently, Prasad has not shown pretext through his first contention.
Prasad also fails to demonstrate pretext with his "accomplished" rating and positive evaluation in some areas. It is well established that evidence of generally adequate performance does not rebut proof of poor performance in a particular area. Instead, the plaintiff must show adequate performance in the specific area that the employer claims is deficient. See Anderson, 965 F.2d at 403 n.2; La Montagne v. American Convenience Products, Inc., 750 F.2d 1405, 1414 (7th Cir. 1984) (satisfactory performance reviews are not evidence that specific reasons for adverse action are pretextual); see also Mills, 83 F.3d at 846 ("The fact that an employee does some things well does not mean that any reason given for [his] firing is a pretext for discrimination.") (internal quotations and citations omitted). Prasad has no evidence that counters the reports of his insensitive and undiplomatic behavior; indeed, Janes' written evaluation demonstrates the contrary. Because Prasad has not produced evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer pretext, his claims cannot withstand summary judgment.
Prasad's discrimination claims fail for an additional reason -- the same person promoted and demoted him. "In cases where the hirer and firer are same individual and the termination of employment occurs within a relatively short time span following the hiring, a strong inference exists that discrimination was not a determining factor for the adverse action taken by the employer." Proud v. Stone, 945 F.2d 796, 797 (4th Cir. 1991). The Seventh Circuit has adopted this principle. EEOC v. Our Lady of the Resurrection Med. Ctr., 77 F.3d 145, 152 (7th Cir. 1996) (strong inference of no race discrimination where plaintiff was hired and fired by the same person within ten months); Rand v. CF Indus., Inc., 42 F.3d 1139, 1147 (7th Cir. 1994) (analogous inference of no age discrimination where time span was two years); see also Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 399 (7th Cir. 1997) (reaffirming the Seventh Circuit's adherence to this principle), cert. denied, 140 L. Ed. 2d 936, 118 S. Ct. 1795 (1998). The "hirer-firer" inference is equally applicable in the demotion context; in both situations, the adverse decisionmaker is the person who treated the plaintiff favorably a short time earlier. The nondiscrimination inference follows the rationale that the person who hired (or promoted) the employee would not suddenly develop an aversion to his or her protected characteristic(s). See Lowe v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., 963 F.2d 173, 174-75 (7th Cir. 1992) (explaining this rationale in the age discrimination context).
Prasad's case fits this pattern. Janes promoted Prasad on July 5, 1993, then demoted him less than sixteen months later. We find it incredible that in a little over a year Janes would abruptly develop antipathy toward Prasad because of his national origin, race, or age. See id.
Prasad has failed to call into question the veracity of Janes' reasons for his reassignment. In addition, the facts support a strong inference of nondiscrimination. Because Prasad has not produced evidence from which a factfinder could infer intentional discrimination, summary judgment is granted on all counts.
It may be that the First National Bank of Chicago should have worked more with Prasad to help him become a better supervisor. Surely, such humane treatment should be given to any employee, especially a veteran of twenty years. However, no current federal law requires humane, decent treatment. Since we have concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Prasad was intentionally discriminated against because of his national origin, race, or age, we must grant the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Prasad's Motion to Strike is denied in its entirety. FNB's Motion to Strike is granted in part and denied in part as detailed in this opinion. The Clerk of Court is hereby instructed to enter judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 58, in favor of the defendant, First National Bank of Chicago, and against the plaintiff, Durgaprasad Vallabhapurapu.
United States District Court Judge
March 23, 1998