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Ravi Darbha v. Capgemini America

March 6, 2012

RAVI DARBHA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAPGEMINI AMERICA, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Ravi Darbha ("Darbha") brought suit against his former employer Defendant Capgemini America, Inc. ("Capgemini"), alleging various acts of employment discrimination under the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Specifically, Darbha alleges that Capgemini discriminated against him due to his age, national origin and race by terminating him, failing to promote him, and failing to stop harassment, as well as by creating a hostile work environment, retaliating against him for reporting the discrimination and denying him equal recognition. Capgemini now moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants Capgemini's motion.

STATEMENT OF FACTS*fn1

Capgemini provides IT outsourcing services to clients; its employees generally work full-time for one client account. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 1).*fn2 Darbha is an Indian male who resides in Illinois and has 15 years of software consulting experience. (Def. 56.1 ¶4; Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶2). Darbha worked for Capgemini for approximately five years, providing IT services on long-term engagements at client sites. During his annual performance review for 2005 and 2006, he was rated a 3 out 5 as "Succeeds/Achieves." (Pl. 56.1 Exs. 2, 3). Darbha then joined the Astellas client site, where he received "highly satisfactory" reviews until some technical glitches with the Argus application, as well as some negative feedback, caused Capgemini to place him on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") in 2008. That year, he received a rating of 4 out of 5 as

"Needs Improvement." When Astellas announced in January 2009 that it was ending its contract with Capgemini, other employees sought other client engagements but Darbha was unable to match his skills to any open positions. Darbha's termination letter in May 2009 from Capgemini stated that he was terminated due to a reduction in force.

I. The Astellas Project

In July 2006, Darbha joined Capgemini's IT project led by Glenn Johnson ("Johnson"), a Caucasian male, for the client Astellas, a pharmaceutical company in Illinois. (Def. 56.1 ¶5, 8). Darbha worked within the R&D Team, serving as the project lead for the Argus software upgrade, assisting Astellas clients directly, and helping other Capgemini team members beyond his assigned activities. (Pl. 56.1 ¶3-5). Dan Page ("Page"), a Caucasian male, became the Project Manager for the Astellas client in January 2008. Page oversaw Angela Brent ("Brent"), an African-American female, and Aaron Steen ("Steen"), a Caucasian male (the "Domain Leads"). (Def. 56.1 ¶13; Exs. 4, 37). In turn, Brent and Steen oversaw the Analysts: Pete Bucchianeri ("Bucchianeri"), a Caucasian male, and Kiran Nallagonda ("Nallagonda"), an Asian-American male. (Def. 56.1 Exs. 4, 37). Darbha is listed in the organizational chart as an Analyst who reported directly to Page rather than to a Domain Lead.*fn3 (Def. 56.1 Ex. 4).

Darbha's 2007 mid-year review stated that he should continue to be "innovative and keep on making recommendations for improvements on your applications. Keep on taking ownership of [ ] applications." (Def. 56.1 Ex. 2). The mid-year review also states Darbha "sometimes give[s] the impression of not working with the team-not my responsibility. You may be correct, BUT, it is how you respond."*fn4 (Def. 56.1 Ex. 2). His 2007 annual review rating was 3 out of 5 for "Succeeds/Achieves" and states that his "quality of work has been acceptable. He has shown competency in running Argus." (Pl. 56.1 Ex. 4).

II. Darbha's Performance in 2008

Darbha's 2008 mid-year review states that Darbha should not "refuse to help with any critical application issues" and should "stop relying on others to make it their issue" and should train a back-up resource. (Def. 56.1 Ex. 5). During his review meeting, Darbha disputed these criticisms as inaccurate, and insisted that he had never refused to train a back-up, and in fact had already trained Ray Moran ("Moran"), a Caucasian male who joined the Astellas project as a Domain Lead. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 17). Subsequently, in June 2008, there was an emergency when the Argus application was "down" but Darbha did not return early from lunch to address it.*fn5 (Def. 56.1 ¶17). In addition, there was an Argus hardware failure, which Darbha failed to escalate to management.*fn6 (Def. 56.1 ¶18). Thereafter, Astellas complained to Page that Darbha was not being accountable for the Argus application.*fn7 (Def. 56.1 ¶6). Citing these incidents, Page and Johnson placed Darbha on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") in September 2008. (Def. 56.1 Ex. 7, 8).*fn8 The PIP was considered complete on January 28, 2009 and officially closed on February 24, 2009. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. Ex. 22). Darbha's 2008 annual review stated that he "has good technical skills and supports a critical application" but based on "several performance areas that were discussed as part of the mid-year review, and a performance improvement plan," his rating was 4 out of 5 for "Needs Improvement." (Def. 56.1 Ex. 33).

III. Darbha's Termination in 2009

In January 2009, Capgemini announced to the R&D Team that Astellas had decided to transfer its R&D applications from Capgemini to a new consulting firm beginning April 1, 2009. (Def. 56.1 ¶28). The Outlook meeting invitation required the R&D Team members' presence but Darbha was invited as "optional." (Pl. 56.1 Ex. 24). At the meeting, employees were told that the members of the R&D Team, including Page, would need to find new positions within Capgemini or be terminated. Darbha inconsistently stated that his understanding of the meeting's message was "we have to find something with Capgemini or you're done," (Def. 56.1 Ex. 20, p. 149-152), and also that at the meeting the team was told that "global R&D applications" (which would include Argus) were not affected by the contract termination. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶28). Capgemini and Astellas modified their engagement contract to include a nonsolicitation agreement that forbade Astellas from soliciting any Capgemini employees for 12 months without Capgemini's prior written consent. (Pl. 56.1 Ex. 18).

As instructed by Capgemini human resources, Darbha searched Capgemini's internal webbased system for open positions. Darbha states that he "applied for so many open positions, may be much more than anybody in the team, to no avail." (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶30). In the section asking whether the applicant would be willing to relocate to fill a position, Darbha wrote "no" and listed his skills primarily as Java. (Def. 56.1 Ex. 22). Darbha wrote to human resources that "[a]s I observe, majority of Cap requirements are for SAP skills." (Def. 56.1 Ex. 30). There were some positions that required a combination of Java and SAP software skills, and although Darbha applied for those, he did not have any SAP skills and stated that he was therefore "not a complete match." (Def. 56.1 Ex. 20, p. 202). Darbha told human resources that he would follow any new training or assignments as required for SAP skills development. (Def. 56.1 Ex. 30). Samantha Linsky ("Linsky") of human resources emailed Darbha's resume to other engagement resource managers to further assist him in his search for a project, to "find a home for him," stating that he would be willing to learn SAP "all the way around," as well as travel to client sites although he could not relocate. (Def. 56.1 Exs. 30-32, 36). On one occasion, Linsky emailed an engagement manager at Warner Brothers in Burbank, California, that Darbha was "currently available and will travel" to the client site, but the manager responded that Darbha would not "be a fit" because the project could not accept travelers and the position required SAP skills. (Def. 56.1 Ex. 36).

Capgemini's internal project database required that an employee "meet minimum qualifications of the job to be considered" and"must not have recently had a performance rating of '4' or currently be on a performance improvement plan." (Pl. 56.1 Resp. Ex. 27). Yet to apply for a position, Darbha only had to post his resume, skills and self-reported comments---not his performance ratings. (Def. 56.1 ΒΆ51). Darbha's performance ratings and the fact that he had been on a PIP were not mentioned or readily accessible ...


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