On June 5, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment on claims of race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and Section 1981. An employer who discriminates against an employee because of his or her race or retaliates against him or her for protesting unlawful discrimination violates Title VII. An employment discrimination case may be established through the direct or indirect method of proof. Under the indirect method, the employee must show: (1) that he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) that he or she suffered an adverse employment action; (3) that he or she was meeting the employer’s legitimate expectations at the time of the adverse action; and (4) that similarly situated employees not in the protected class were treated more favorably by the employer under similar circumstances. If these elements are met, the employer must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action; and then the employee must prove that the reason is pretext for discrimination.
The 7th Circuit held that the employee failed to establish a claim of race discrimination because he was not meeting the employer’s legitimate expectations, and he presented no evidence of any similarly situated employee who was treated more favorably. The 7th Circuit stated that a federal court does not sit as a “super-personnel department” second-guessing an employer’s legitimate concerns about an employee’s performance. There was also no evidence of pretext.
A Title VII retaliation claim may be established through the direct or indirect method of proof. Under the direct method, the employee must demonstrate: (1) that he or she engaged in statutorily protected activity; (2) that the employer took adverse job action against him or her; and (3) that there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse job action. The passage of considerable time between the protected activity and the adverse action suggests that there is no causal connection. However, suspicious timing combined with other corroborating evidence that raises an inference of retaliation may establish causation. Under the indirect method, the employee must show: (1) that he or she engaged in protected activity; (2) that he or she met the employer’s legitimate performance expectations; (3) that the employer took adverse employment action against him or her; and (4) that he or she was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who did not engage in protected activity. The 7th Circuit concluded that the employee failed to establish a retaliation claim under the direct or indirect method.