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Lockard v. Fidelity Information Services

July 8, 2010

W. LISA LOCKARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FIDELITY INFORMATION SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

W. Lisa Lockard ("Lockard") has brought a Complaint charging her former employer Fidelity Information Services, Inc. ("Fidelity") with two violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII," 42 U.S.C. §§2000e to 2000e-17) and 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("Section 1981"): (1) employment discrimination on the basis of race and (2) retaliation. Both charges are premised on Fidelity's having terminated Lockard's employment.

Fidelity has now moved for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 56. As part of her response to that motion, Lockard has filed a Motion To Strike Certain Exhibits Offered in Support of Defendant's Statement of Material Facts ("L. Mo."). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, both Fidelity's Rule 56 motion and Lockard's Motion To Strike are denied.*fn1

Summary Judgment Standard

Every Rule 56 movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose courts consider the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to nonmovants and draw all reasonable inferences in their favor (Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F. 3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002)). But a non-movant must produce more than "a mere scintilla of evidence to support the position that a genuine issue of material fact exists" (Wheeler v. Lawson, 539 F.3d 629, 634 (7th Cir. 2008)). Ultimately summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-movant (Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). What follows is a summary of the facts, viewed of course in the light most favorable to non-movant Lockard.*fn2

Factual Background*fn3

Fidelity is a corporation that provides and supports software products for financial institutions and other entities (F. St. ¶2). Harris Bank ("Harris") is the main client of Fidelity's Chicago office (F. St. ¶3). Lockard, who is African-American, was employed at Fidelity from 1986 to 2006. In 1999 she was transferred to Chicago and assigned to work with Harris (F. St. ¶¶4-5).

Joyce Lopez ("Lopez") was a Fidelity Account Manager II (F. St. ¶7) and became Lockard's supervisor upon the retirement of her previous supervisor Glenn Mitchell ("Mitchell") in April 2005 (F. St. ¶14). Chris Rhea ("Rhea") was Fidelity's Senior Account Manager responsible for the Harris account and was Lopez's supervisor (F. St. ¶6). Bettye Bennett ("Bennett") was Director of Human Resources at Fidelity, and Bridgette White ("White") was a Human Resource Generalist (F. St. ¶¶8-9).

Lockard was a Programming Manager II whose duties included managing a team of employees that supported software applications for Harris. At the time of her termination in 2006, Lockard's main duty was supporting the Information Warehouse applications (L. St. ¶7). Due to Information Warehouse's reporting requirements, Lockard frequently worked late hours (typically until 6:30 or 7 p.m., and on occasion until 1 or 2 a.m.), so that Mitchell allowed her to start work later (L. St. ¶¶11-12). Lopez did not fully understand the applications that Lockard supported (L. St. ¶13).

Mitchell had considered Lockard a "good solid manager," "reliable" and "very knowledgeable," and he knew of no issue that would warrant a Performance Improvement Plan (L. St. ¶2).*fn4

Mitchell received no negative feedback about Lockard from any of her subordinates, or from Bennett (who interacted with him), or from his predecessor as Lockard's prior supervisor, who had begun Lockard's promotional process (L. St. ¶3). In October 2005 Lockard's Information Warehouse team received the "Team of the Month" award, given in recognition of performance beyond the call of duty and above normal expectations, with the team leader (here Lockard) given credit for leading or directing the team's efforts (L. St. ¶¶14, 15).

From the client's perspective, although Harris requested that some Fidelity employees be removed from its account, it never requested Lockard's removal (L. St. ¶¶16, 17). Harris employee Thomas Erickson, who worked closely with Lockard, had no concerns about Lockard's communication skills and made no complaints about her (L. St. ¶¶4-5).

In October 2005, during a reduction in force, Lopez considered terminating Lockard, but she did not do so after Bennett told Lopez that Fidelity could face liability (Lockard was one of only a few African-American females in management) (L. St. ¶34).*fn5 Then a few months later (about March 30 2006*fn6 ) Lopez completed Lockard's performance evaluation for 2005, giving her a "Does Not Meet Expectations" rating (F. St. ¶43). Lopez discussed the evaluation with Rhea, Bennett and White, and Rhea reviewed the evaluation (F. St. ¶¶40-41).

According to Lopez the rating was based on, among other things, feedback about Lockard that she received from Harris and Fidelity personnel,*fn7 missed due dates (including untimely delivery of a file to an outside vendor) and Lockard's failure to conduct a training session (F. St. ¶¶39, 48). That feedback assertedly expressed some concerns about timeliness in completing assignments, providing information and responding to emails, tardiness, failure to attend meetings, and communication issues (F. St. ¶¶26-29, 31-34, 37-38).*fn8 But as against that, Mitchell had received positive feedback about Lockard from some of the same individuals whom Lopez identifies as providing negative feedback (L. St. ¶¶3, 5; L. Resp. St. ¶¶26, 29).*fn9

Lockard had never received a rating below "Meets Expectations" from any prior supervisor (L. St. ¶1). She appealed Lopez's rating to Rhea (F. St. ¶45). Though she acknowledged to Rhea that she often arrived late, she not only explained the reason referred to earlier in this section but also gave him a written rebuttal to examples of performance concerns that Lopez had identified (F. St. ¶¶43, 47-49, 50-51). On April 24 Rhea informed Lockard that he would not change the rating (F. St. ¶53). According to Rhea, his decision was based on both personal observations and feedback that he had received from others about Lockard's communication style, timeliness and support of her subordinates (F. St. ¶¶22-23, 52-53; L. Resp. St. ¶¶22).*fn10

According to Bennett, a manager who takes over supervision of an employee at mid-year should obtain input from the prior manager when completing an evaluation (L. St. ¶18), but Lopez did not communicate with Mitchell. It is true that Mitchell knows of no instance when a manager consulted a previous manager who had retired (L. St. ¶18), but the fact of a "Does Not Meet Expectations" rating and its consequences (described in the next paragraph) are sufficiently serious that an unbiased supervisor having a very short period of supervisory contact could reasonably be expected by a factfinding jury to avail herself of the much longer experience of her predecessor. Relatedly, Fidelity's Manager Handbook on ...


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