1997, Chiaro prepared a written summary of Burton's performance
On January 24, 1997, Wasar, Willis, Chiaro, Wenda, and Cagle
met with Burton at Cellular One's Springfield office. During the
meeting, Wasar asked Burton about the Casner and Leady accounts.
Burton first responded that he had not finished his
investigation; however, he later stated that he had investigated
the two accounts and that he did not find anything improper.
Sometime later during that same meeting, Burton admitted that it
appeared to him that the Casner and Leady accounts were not
handled in accordance with company policy and that Allen had
violated company policy.
Wasar also asked Burton about Allen's time sheets for December
26, 1996, and for January 2, 1997. Burton admitted that Allen had
not worked on December 26, 1996, but asserted that it was
possible that Allen had worked on a Saturday and that he had
given Allen another day off. However, Allen's time sheet did not
reflect that Burton had given Allen the day off. Likewise, Burton
admitted that Allen did not arrive at work until 10:30 a.m. on
January 2, 1997, but posited that perhaps Allen was owed some
"comp" time. Finally, Burton gave the same response when
questioned regarding Allen's time sheet for January 6,
At the end of the meeting, Wasar suspended Burton. On January
31, 1997, Chiaro, Wenda, and Willis telephoned Burton and
informed him that his employment with Cellular One was being
terminated. Upon learning that Burton had been discharged, Allen
walked off the job with Cellular One without notice and has never
returned. Cellular One subsequently hired Colleen Pierceall to
replace Burton. Burton has now filed the above-captioned case
alleging that Cellular One fired him because of his race.
II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary
judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.Pro.
56(c); see Ruiz-Rivera v. Moyer, 70 F.3d 498, 500-01 (7th Cir.
1995). The moving party has the burden of providing proper
documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of
material fact exists when "there is sufficient evidence favoring
the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106
S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists,
the Court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co.,
398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Once the moving
party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward
with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the
pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for
trial. Gracia v. Volvo Europa Truck, N.V., 112 F.3d 291, 294
(7th Cir. 1997).
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it "an unlawful
employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or
to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against
any individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such
individual's race. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). A plaintiff may
Title VII claim of discrimination either by offering direct
evidence of discrimination, Trans World Airlines, Inc. v.
Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 121, 105 S.Ct. 613, 83 L.Ed.2d 523
(1985), or by the burden shifting method articulated by the
United States Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668
(1973). Burton does not assert that he has direct evidence of
discrimination, and therefore, he relies upon the McDonnell
Douglas burden shifting method in order to support his claim.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has
explained the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting method as being
a three step inquiry:
First, a plaintiff must establish, by a preponderance
of the evidence, a prima facie case of
discrimination. If the plaintiff makes out a prima
facie case, a presumption of discrimination arises,
and the burden shifts to the defendant to come
forward with evidence of a "legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason" for discharging the
plaintiff. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93
S.Ct. at 1824; Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct.
at 1093-94. Finally, "the plaintiff must then have an
opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by the
defendant were not its true reasons, but were a
pretext for discrimination." Burdine, 450 U.S. at
253, 101 S.Ct. at 1093; see also Anderson, 13 F.3d
at 1122-24 (discussing pretext prong of McDonnell
Douglas). Throughout, "[t]he ultimate burden of
persuading the trier of fact that the defendant
intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff
remains at all times with the plaintiff." Burdine,
450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct. at 1093. A goal of this
burden-shifting approach is "to frame the factual
issue with sufficient clarity so that the plaintiff
will have a full and fair opportunity to demonstrate
pretext." Id. at 255-56, 101 S.Ct. at 1094-95.
Testerman v. EDS Technical Prods. Corp., 98 F.3d 297, 302-03
(7th Cir. 1996), quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct.
1089; Adreani v. First Colonial Bankshares Corp.,