NAIK v. BOEHRINGER INGELHEIM PHARMACEUTICALS (November 22, 2010)
In early 2004, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals hired Prakash Naik, a 53-year-old India native, as a sales representative in its Schaumburg territory outside of Chicago. Naik’s job was to make sales calls on doctors and other medical professionals and promote BIP's products. Naik complained to the company that his manager, Brett Lundsten, made inappropriate comments regarding both his age and his national origin. In early 2005, a regional performance review disclosed that the Schaumburg territory was underperforming. Lundsten began investigating his employees’ sales call activities. He found several irregularities with respect to Naik's call activity, including recorded sales calls at times when the identified medical professional was apparently not available. He investigated further, directly contacting the professionals’ offices. His investigation resulted in a list of at least six occasions on which Naik recorded a sales call with a person who was not present. Lundsten, along with the regional manager and a regional human resources representative, confronted Naik. Naik claimed that he had no recollection of the calls. The company representatives provided him with the details of their investigation and gave him until the following day to provide additional information. When Naik was unable to provide any information to explain the apparent irregularities, BIP terminated his employment. The company replaced him with a 36-year-old non-Indian male. Company records also show that two other employees were fired for falsifying sales calls, two other employees voluntarily resigned after being accused of falsifying sales calls, and that no employee accused of falsifying sales calls was retained. Naik brought suit against the BIP, alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and national origin discrimination under Title VII. Judge Andersen (N.D. Ill.) granted summary judgment to BIP. Naik appeals.
In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Cudahy, Rovner, and Evans affirmed. Naik relies on the indirect, McDonnell Douglas formula for proving discriminatory intent. Two of the four elements of the tests are at issue here -- whether Naik was meeting his employer’s legitimate expectations and whether BIP treated similarly situated employees more favorably. The Court quickly disposed of the legitimate expectations element, concluding that the call record falsification without explanation was adequate evidence of a failure to meet legitimate expectations. The Court also agreed with the district court that Naik failed to establish that any similarly situated employee was treated differently. In fact, the record shows no disparity in the company’s treatment of employees who falsify sales call records. Although Naik fell far short of meeting his burden, the Court added that he also could not have established that BIP's nondiscriminatory reason was pretextual. The company's belief that he falsified his call reports was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating his employment.