BAIG v. STATE OF INDIANA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
ORDER granting Defendant's 42 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 3/29/2017. (CBU)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
STATE OF INDIANA, DEPARTMENT
) Cause No. 1:15-cv-382-WTL-DML
ENTRY ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This cause is before the Court on the Defendant’s fully briefed Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. No. 42). The Court, being duly advised, now GRANTS the Defendant’s motion
for the reasons set forth below.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the
admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable
inferences must be drawn in the non-movant’s favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all
reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.”). However, a party who bears the burden of proof
on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there
is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d
892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically
identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in
search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d
713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).
The Plaintiff, Shakeel Baig, brings his Complaint against the Defendant, State of Indiana,
Department of Transportation (“INDOT”) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Baig alleges that he was
discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment because of his race, religion,
and national origin, and that the Defendant unlawfully retaliated against him for complaining of
race, religion, and national origin discrimination and harassment.
Baig is originally from Pakistan. He is a practicing Muslim and identifies as Asian. Baig
began working for INDOT in 1997. He worked in its Crawfordsville, Indiana division office
beginning in 2005. He was hired as a design engineer and received several promotions. His final
promotion was to Director of Production, a position that was later renamed Director of Capital
Program Management and Director of Program Management. In this position, among other
things, he was responsible for identifying projects, looking after the budget, and managing
people below him. About five or six people reported directly to Baig, and he directly or
indirectly supervised about thirty employees.
Alan Plunkett has held the position of Deputy Commissioner of INDOT’s Crawfordsville
Division since 2005. Plunkett is of North American descent, does not practice Islam, and is
Caucasian. Baig reported directly to Plunkett from 2005 to 2013, when a reorganization took
place within INDOT. While Baig and Plunkett continued to work together on projects after the
reorganization, Louis Feagans became Baig’s supervisor. Feagans is of North American descent,
does not practice Islam, and is Caucasian.
Baig’s Performance Reviews
Baig generally received good performance reviews. Baig received a “Meets
Expectations” on his 2009, 2010, and 2012 annual performance appraisals. Baig received a rating
of “Exceeds Expectations” on his 2011 annual performance appraisal. His final performance
appraisal, completed by Feagans for the year 2013, was also a rating of “Meets Expectations”
and included assessments of “Meets Expectations” or “Exceeds Expectations” in every
individual category. Feagans completed Baig’s “Manager Evaluation” and reported that “Shakeel
needs to continue to work on his relationships with his staff and providing them with new
challenges and understanding their strengths and needs.” Dkt. No. 42-7 at 2.
Plunkett’s Comments and Actions
Baig mentions numerous negative comments Plunkett made to him over the course of his
employment. In 2008, Plunkett first told Baig that Baig was lucky to have a spot on the
organizational chart. Plunkett repeated this comment to Baig several times.
In 2008, Plunkett excluded Baig from a National Guard project that had begun in 2006.
When Plunkett told Baig that he would not take Baig to a meeting with the National Guard,
Plunkett made a comment that he did not want to scare them and “doesn’t want them to think
there’s a terrorist on the ground.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 6. Plunkett also said that Baig would scare
the mayor of Lafayette if he were to meet with him.
In 2010, Baig began growing a beard. Plunkett made multiple comments suggesting that
Baig should shave his beard, his looked shabby, and that he would look better without the beard.
Plunkett also made comments to Baig that the beard made him look like a terrorist. Once, during
a staff meeting, Plunkett said that the FBI was watching Baig. Plunkett would tell Baig that he
needed to shave his beard or the FBI would pick him up.
Every year to eighteen months when Baig was preparing to fly to Pakistan, Plunkett
would tell Baig that he would have a hard time getting through security coming back from
Pakistan. Baig last flew to Pakistan in 2013. When Baig would return from Pakistan, Plunkett
would say, “So I guess they let you go.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 9.
Plunkett also asked Baig several culturally insensitive questions. For example, he asked
Baig if he was allowed to marry four wives and whether he would “get seventy virgins” if he
killed someone. Dkt. No. 42-21 at 30. Plunkett asked Baig if he was required to wear a beard to
return to Pakistan and if his wife was required to cover her whole body in Pakistan. He also
asked if Baig knew Osama Bin Laden. Plunkett also made comments about “nuking” Muslims
and Muslim countries and opined that there should be stricter TSA security for Muslims at the
In 2011 or 2012, Plunkett called Baig into his office and asked Baig if it was a cultural
thing to throw used toilet paper on the floor rather than dispose of it in the toilet. When the issue
came up again at a staff meeting, Plunkett again asked Baig if it was part of his culture to throw
toilet paper on the floor. Plunkett also accused Jawed Bari, a Muslim employee from India, of
throwing toilet paper on the floor. In May 2014, Bari overheard Plunkett say, “these foreigners,
these brown people, they think they are very smart people, but they are not, they are shit.” Dkt.
No. 48-7 at 2. Plunkett also threatened Baig with “consequences” after Baig hired Bari.
Right after President Obama was elected, Plunkett made the comment that black people
thought they would get a free ride because there was a black president and that deep down he
thought President Obama was a Muslim. Baig found Plunkett’s comments about President
Obama being a Muslim to be in a negative tone. Between 2009 and 2014, Plunkett made racial
comments about President Obama five or six times. The comments were made in a tone such that
Baig believed that Plunkett did not like African-Americans.
Further, Plunkett made comments about Baig’s accent and pretended that he could not
understand Baig. Baig was told by two other people that Plunkett and Joe Lewein, another
employee, were making fun of his accent. Although Plunkett did not have any problems
pronouncing Baig’s name, he did have difficulty with the names of two other employees—Noor
Afrin and Asfahan. Plunkett commented that he wished they would use nicknames that he would
find easier to pronounce.
Baig usually did not tell Plunkett that his offensive comments upset him because Plunkett
told Baig he did not forget things, and Plunkett would sometimes get very angry with Baig,
leading Baig to fear retaliation.
Plunkett would go to Baig’s employees to inquire whether Baig was “doing anything
wrong.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 6. He did not ask Baig’s counterparts, such as Bruce Conrad and Mark
Albers, or his counterparts’ employees, about what they were doing. Plunkett did not give Baig a
computer camera for web-conferences, as other individuals had. Plunkett would give Baig the
worst cars in the district for his department, and his employees were always having trouble with
the cars. This created hurdles that affected Baig’s productivity. Plunkett also allowed Baig’s
direct reports to bypass Baig and go directly to Plunkett, while direct reports of others were not
allowed to do this.
Facts Related to Baig’s Reporting
Sarita Vanderbilt started working as INDOT’s Human Resource Manager in
Crawfordsville in 2008. Baig complained to Vanderbilt in 2008 about Plunkett’s behavior toward
him. He said that he had begun to feel uncomfortable with Plunkett in 2006. Baig had many
conversations with Vanderbilt during which he told her that he was not feeling comfortable, and
it seemed as though Plunkett wanted to terminate him and was looking for a reason to do so. He
told her about the comments that Plunkett would make. Baig also complained to Vanderbilt
about Plunkett’s questions about the toilet paper on the floor and Plunkett’s derogatory
comments about President Obama. Baig told Vanderbilt he found the comments insulting.
Soon after Vanderbilt began working in the Crawfordsville office in 2008, she and Baig
discussed possible discrimination by another employee, Joe Lewein. Vanderbilt and Baig
thought that Lewein was unprofessional, condescending, and demeaning toward Baig and
Vanderbilt. Lewein also made comments supporting Plunkett’s statements. Baig talked to
Vanderbilt about comments about Alex, Asfahan, and Noor. Baig also discussed with Vanderbilt
that he had asked Plunkett for a camera for video conferences, but not been given one.
Although Baig complained about Plunkett to Vanderbilt, Baig never filed a formal
complaint. He never put any of his complaints in writing, although he may have complained to
her in an e-mail. He believed that, as the HR person, she would guide him if he needed to file
anything in writing, but he was not directed to do so.
Complaint by Kohl
In June 2014, Travis Kohl complained to Plunkett that Baig had yelled at Kohl in front of
others. 1 Kohl also complained to Trevor Mills, his supervisor, who told Kohl to report the
incident to the State Personnel Office. Kohl sent a complaint to Ricky Fox in the State Personnel
Office on June 10, 2014. In that complaint, Kohl reported what he termed “behavior I genuinely
find hostile and am now in a position I don’t feel my job is in jeopardy to report.” His e-mail
described an event on June 5, 2014, when Baig became loud, aggressive, and emotional toward
Baig does not dispute that this complaint and additional complaints made during the
investigation were made, although he denies the accuracy of the complaints.
Kohl in front of others. He then described an “uncomfortable encounter” in which Baig’s tone
was “aggressive and emotional.” He indicated that these incidents were not isolated, but rather
reflected regularly occurring behavior by Baig. He stated that Baig had threatened others,
including Melissa Patton, Richard Gilyeat, Afrin, and several former employees. Dkt. No. 42-8
Kohl’s complaint triggered an investigation. Even before the complaint was filed,
Feagans was aware that Baig and Kohl had issues. Feagans tried to get Baig and Kohl to work
out their differences, and he enlisted Plunkett to try to help them do so. Feagans also had heard
complaints about Baig before the complaint was filed, but he had not been able to have the
opportunity to speak privately with other employees to investigate them.
Vanderbilt did not conduct the investigation into Kohl’s complaint. Rather, because the
complaint was filed with the State Personnel Office, Fox conducted the investigation.
Fox’s Investigation and Report
Fox’s investigation yielded many complaints about Baig. Fox interviewed INDOT
employees Kohl, Mary Beth Redden, Patton, Mike Wink, Marcie Jeffers, Afrin, Deb Switzer,
Mark Albers, Mills, and Baig. Fox reported that Kohl said that Baig’s behavior was frequently
offensive. Fox reported that when he interviewed Mary Beth Redden, she started to cry, stating
that she “just wish[ed] things would calm down” and that “the tension would decrease.” Dkt. No.
42-10 at 2. She reported that Baig “treats [people] pretty well, but that he expects a person to do
their job.” Id.
Fox reported that Patton stated that Baig “would get angry and take everything personal.”
Dkt. No. 42-10 at 3. She said Baig was frequently “on” Richard Gilyeat. Id. Fox reported that
Jeffers said she was “almost ready to quit her job under Baig,” and that he “was disrespectful and
that he would not allow employees to chit chat about things.” Id. She described the environment
as “tense,” and said that she would use sick days to avoid coming to work. She stated that it “was
an awful place to work because of Baig.” Id. Fox reported that Afrin described Baig as “tough,
fair, and uses very direct language when communicating. She said she was never offended about
anything he [did.]” Id. at 4. Switzer reported that Baig “was very disrespectful towards
employees [and] she had been called into his office two times and he did nothing but yell at her.”
Id. Fox issued a summary of his investigation and recommended that Baig be demoted to a nonmanagerial position or be terminated. Id. at 4.
Additional Employee Opinions About Baig
In response to the instant motion, Baig has submitted declarations from INDOT
employees Tammy Turnbull, Bari, and Renee Neukam. None of these employees was
interviewed by Fox. Turnbull said that Baig was very considerate and polite, and she could not
recall him yelling or being disrespectful to anyone. Bari said Baig was a very high performing
person and very fine manager, and if Baig was disliked, it was because not everyone at INDOT
wanted to work hard all the time. Neukam said Baig was very professional and fostered a very
professional, accountable atmosphere, and that she never experienced any issues of being yelled
at or mistreated. She indicated if people got upset with Baig, it was because he held them
accountable for their actions.
In June 2014, Feagans was aware that Baig had issues with Plunkett, particularly that
Baig thought Plunkett was “harassing” Baig by trying to get Kohl and Baig to work out their
differences, and Baig thought that Plunkett was not listening to him. Dkt. No. 42-23 at 9.
Feagans went to lunch with Plunkett and Baig sometime in either late May or early June 2014 in
an effort to improve their relationship.
Feagans did not have any discussions with Plunkett about the investigation of Baig until
Baig’s termination was being considered. Specifically, the night before Baig’s termination,
Feagans told Plunkett that if Baig did not have satisfactory responses to questions, he would
likely be terminated. Plunkett expressed his opinion that he preferred that Baig be demoted or
Feagans met with Baig and Jeff Sullivan on the morning of June 25, 2014. Later that day,
Feagans sent Baig a Memorandum with the subject line “Dismissal for Unprofessional Behavior
in the Workplace.” Dkt. No. 42-11 at 1. The memo reads, in relevant part:
A meeting was held this morning with the following persons in
attendance, Louis Feagans, Jeff Sullivan, and yourself. The purpose of the
meeting was to discuss allegations of poor judgment and unprofessional conduct
in the workplace. This meeting was the result of an investigation regarding
allegations of unprofessional treatment of employees, and subsequently
inappropriate conduct during the investigation. As a result of the internal
investigation and our discussion this morning, it is my determination that the
allegations have been substantiated. Your behavior does not meet the standards of
conduct INDOT expects of its managers, and cannot be tolerated.
For the reasons listed above, you are hereby notified that effective
immediately, your employment with the Indiana Department of Transportation is
terminated . . . .
Feagans identified the following main reasons for Baig’s termination: “[t]reatment of
employees, decision-making, Core 4, . . . respect of employees, ownership of staffing.” Dkt. No.
42-23 at 5. Feagans pointed to Baig’s inability to make even simple, entry-level position
decisions as evidence of Baig’s inability to take ownership of staffing issues. Feagans also
indicated that Baig had a decision-making problem. He provided as an example the fact that Baig
cost INDOT money because of poor timing in providing notice for open bidding and the start of
Baig filed a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission on July 23, 2014, and
the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on July 31, 2014. The
EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Rights on December 8, 2014.
Baig asserts claims for hostile work environment, discrimination, and retaliation. The
Defendant moves for summary judgment on each of these claims.
Hostile Work Environment
The Defendant argues that Baig’s hostile work environment claim is time barred to the
extent that it is based on events occurring before Fall 2013. Baig has not responded to this
argument. “Section 2000e-5(e)(1) requires that a Title VII plaintiff file a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) . . . 300 days ‘after the alleged unlawful
employment practice occurred.’” Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 104-05,
(2002) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5). In Morgan, the Court explained that under the continuing
violation doctrine, acts contributing to a hostile work environment involve “repeated conduct”
that “may not be actionable on its own.” Morgan, 536 U.S. at 115. Instead, “[s]uch claims are
based on the cumulative effect of individual acts.” Id. In such cases, “[i]t does not matter, for
purposes of the statute, that some of the component acts of the hostile work environment fall
outside the statutory time period. Provided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the
filing period, the entire time period of the hostile environment may be considered by a court for
the purposes of determining liability.” Id. at 117; see also Hildebrandt v. Illinois Dep’t of Nat.
Res., 347 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court concluded that the “incidents constituting a
hostile work environment are part of one unlawful employment practice.” Morgan, 536 U.S. at
The Seventh Circuit has explained that a continuing violation may exist under three
circumstances, where: (1) “an employer makes employment decisions over time that make it
difficult for the employee to determine the actual date of discrimination”; (2) the employee’s
claim “involves an express discriminatory policy of the employer”; or (3) “discrete acts of
discrimination are part of an ongoing pattern and at least one of the discrete acts occurred within
the relevant limitations period.” Tinner v. United Ins. Co. of Am., 308 F.3d 697, 707 (7th Cir.
2002). Baig has not pointed to facts that would support a finding that either of the first two
theories applies. As such, the Court must look to the evidence of record that would demonstrate
that a discrete act of discrimination occurred on or after October 3, 2013, which is 300 days
before Baig filed his EEOC charge.
The record contains one statement by Plunkett that clearly falls within the requisite time
frame. Specifically, in May 2014, Bari overheard Plunkett say, “these foreigners, these brown
people, they think they are very smart people, but they are not, they are shit.” Dkt. No. 48-7 at 2.
However, this statement was not directed at Bari—let alone Baig—and Baig has not alleged that
he even knew of the alleged statement. See Russell v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill. at Chicago,
243 F.3d 336, 343 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation omitted) (“When harassing statements are
directed at someone other than the plaintiff, the impact of [such] second hand harassment is
obviously not as great as the impact of harassment directed at the plaintiff.”). As such, it cannot
serve as a discrete act for purposes of the continuing violation doctrine.
Baig points to additional comments that Plunkett made relating to President
Obama’s race and African-Americans. He indicates that these comments were made five
or six times from the time of President Obama’s inauguration until two or three months
before Baig’s termination. Again, these comments were not directed at Baig. Further, the
comments led Baig to believe that Plunkett does not like African-Americans—a racial
group to which Baig does not belong.
Baig points to one comment by Plunkett that Plunkett believed that President
Obama was still Muslim deep down. However Baig testified that he was still reporting to
Plunkett at the time the comment was made (Dkt. No. 42-21 at 26); as such, the comment
must have been made no later than September 2013, when Feagans assumed full
supervisory responsibility over Baig.
The comments allegedly made by Plunkett before October 4, 2013, were reprehensible.
However, Baig filed his EEOC complaint more than 300 days after the last such comment that he
has identified in the record. As such, Baig’s hostile work environment claim is time barred, and
the Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on that claim.
With regard to a claim of discrimination under Title VII, the fundamental inquiry at the
summary judgment stage is, “has the non-moving party produced sufficient evidence to support a
jury verdict of intentional discrimination?” David v. Bd. of Trs. of Cmty. Coll. Dist. No. 508, 846
F.3d 216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Morgan v. SVT, LLC, 724 F.3d 990, 997 (7th Cir. 2013)
(“The central question at issue is whether the employer acted on account of the plaintiff's
[membership in a protected class] . . . .”)). In other words, the test “is simply whether the
evidence would permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that the plaintiff’s race, ethnicity, sex,
religion, or other proscribed factor caused the discharge or other adverse employment action.”
Ortiz v. Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016).
Here, Baig has not pointed to such evidence. Baig has pointed to no facts to suggest that
Feagans, who made the decision to terminate him, made his decision in any way based on Baig’s
race, ethnicity, or religion. While he points to comments made by Plunkett that could constitute
evidence of discrimination, Plunkett did not make the decision to fire Baig. In fact, the
Defendant points to undisputed evidence that Plunkett suggested demoting Baig rather than
terminating him, but Feagans decided that termination was appropriate. Feagans made the
decision following an investigation and report by Fox that brought to light many employee
complaints about Baig’s behavior. Feagans’ memo to Baig regarding the termination referenced
Baig’s “poor judgment and unprofessional conduct in the workplace [and] unprofessional
treatment of employees.” Dkt. No. 42-11 at 1.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Baig, no reasonable juror could
conclude that Baig was terminated because of his race, religion, or national origin, and the Court
therefore grants summary judgment in favor of the Defendant on Baig’s discrimination claim.
Title VII also prohibits retaliation against employees who engage in statutorily protected
activity by opposing an unlawful employment practice or participating in the investigation of
one. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). A retaliation claim requires proof that the plaintiff suffered an
adverse employment action because of his statutorily protected activity; in other words, the
plaintiff must prove that he engaged in protected activity and suffered an adverse employment
action, and that there is a causal link between the two. Castro v. DeVry Univ., Inc., 786 F.3d 559,
564 (7th Cir. 2015).
The Court assumes, without deciding, for the purposes of this Entry that the first two
elements are satisfied. Baig complained to Human Resources manager Sarita Vanderbilt
beginning in 2008 and continuing until he was terminated in 2014 that Plunkett often made
racially and ethnically derogatory remarks in the workplace. Baig also points to his complaint to
Feagans. Specifically, in June 2014, he told Feagans that he felt as though he was being harassed
by Plunkett to improve his relationship with Kohl. That complaint had nothing to do with
discrimination on the basis of Baig’s race, religion, or origin. Baig was terminated after he made
complaints. A termination is, of course, a materially adverse employment action. E.g., Nichols v.
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, 510 F.3d 772, 780 (7th Cir. 2007).
Accordingly, the only element at issue is whether Baig has offered sufficient evidence to
create a genuine issue of material fact on whether his complaints caused his termination. Baig
points to the suspicious timing between his complaint to Feagans and his termination. However,
“suspicious timing alone rarely is sufficient to create a triable issue.” Tomanovich v. City of
Indianapolis, 457 F.3d 656, 665 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted);
see also Wyninger v. New Venture Gear, Inc., 361 F.3d 965, 981 (7th Cir. 2004) (“[I]t is clear
that ‘mere temporal proximity’ is not enough to establish a genuine issue of material fact.”
(citation omitted)); Sauzek v. Exxon Coal USA, Inc., 202 F.3d 913, 918 (7th Cir. 2000)
(“Speculation based on suspicious timing alone . . . does not support a reasonable inference of
retaliation; instead, plaintiffs must produce facts which somehow tie the adverse decision to the
plaintiffs’ protected actions.”).
Here, Kohl e-mailed a complaint regarding Baig’s alleged behavior to the State Personnel
Office on June 10, 2014. The resulting investigation brought to light numerous complaints about
Baig. Fox provided a summary to Feagans on June 25, 2014, recommending that Baig be
demoted or terminated, and Feagans terminated Baig the afternoon of June 25, 2014, after
meeting with Baig. Feagans’ memo to Baig regarding the termination referenced Baig’s “poor
judgment and unprofessional conduct in the workplace [and] unprofessional treatment of
employees.” Dkt. No. 42-11 at 1.
Under these circumstances, this is not the rare case in which temporal proximity, without
more, established a causal connection. See Moser v. Indiana Dep’t of Corrections, 406 F.3d 895,
905 (7th Cir. 2005) (explaining that “numerous incidents brought [employee’s] professionalism
and ability . . . into question” and thereby undermined any inference of suspicious timing);
Juarez v. Ameritech Mobile Commc’n, Inc., 957 F.2d 317, 321-22 (7th Cir. 1992) (holding that
the “timing of the complaints, standing alone, d[id] not create a genuine issue as to a causal
connection” when plaintiff “presents no evidence to suggest that [those] who complained of her
deficient performance were lying or that their motives in making those complaints were
Baig has not pointed to any additional evidence beyond the temporal relation between his
complaints and his termination that might support a causal link between the two. In fact, the
evidence points in the other direction. As discussed above, results of Fox’s investigation brought
to light many employee allegations about abusive behavior by Baig. As such, Baig offers no
reason to believe that Feagans terminated him because of Baig’s complaints.
Additionally, even if Baig had presented circumstantial evidence of a retaliatory motive
to establish a prima facie case, the Defendant has offered a nondiscriminatory reason for Baig’s
discharge—that he was mistreating his employees—and Baig has not demonstrated that there
exists an issue of material fact on the question of pretext. See Lord v. High Voltage Software,
Inc., 839 F.3d 556, 564 (7th Cir. 2016) (“When confronted with circumstantial evidence of a
retaliatory motive, the employer may show that the employee would have been fired even absent
his complaints about harassment.”). Baig has no evidence that calls the Defendant’s reason for
termination into question. “Pretext involves more than just faulty reasoning or mistaken
judgment on the part of the employer; it is [a] ‘lie, specifically a phony reason for some action.’”
Argyropoulos v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 736 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). When
“assessing a plaintiff's claim that an employer's explanation is pretextual, [the court does] not . . .
second-guess[ ] an employer’s facially legitimate business decisions.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). An employer’s reasons for firing an employee can be “foolish or trivial or even
baseless,” as long as they are “honestly believed.” Culver v. Gorman & Co., 416 F.3d 540, 547
(7th Cir. 2005) (quotation omitted). Here, the record does not contain evidence from which a
reasonable factfinder could conclude that a retaliatory motive caused Baig’s termination, and the
Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Baig’s unlawful retaliation claim.
For the foregoing reasons, the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 42)
SO ORDERED: 3/29/17
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
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