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Employment – Discrimination – similarly-situated employees

Discrimination; similarly-situated employees

Where the record provides no indication that an employer took an employee’s disciplinary history into account in terminating her, it was error for the district court to find that she was not similarly situated to another employee because of her disciplinary history.

“It is routinely stated that similarly situated employees must be ‘directly comparable to the plaintiff in all material respects, which includes showing that the coworkers engaged in comparable rule or policy violations.’ Naik v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharms., Inc., 627 F.3d 596, 600 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Patterson v. Indiana Newspapers, Inc., 589 F.3d 357, 365-66 (7th Cir. 2009)). Our cases have further refined the inquiry: ‘all material respects’ means comparable experience, education and qualifications, ‘provided that the employer took these factors into account when making the personnel decision in question.’ Patterson v. Avery Dennison Corp., 281 F.3d 676, 680 (7th Cir. 2002) (emphasis added); see Hull v. Stoughton Trailers, LLC, 445 F.3d 949, 952 (7th Cir. 2006) (same); Bio v. Federal Express Corp., 424 F.3d 593, 597 (7th Cir. 2005) (same); Ajayi v. Aramark Bus. Servs., Inc., 336 F.3d 520, 532 (7th Cir. 2003) (same). A characteristic that distinguishes two employees, regardless of its significance when objectively considered, does not render the employees non-comparable if the employer never considered Here, the record provides no indication that DOC considered Eaton’s disciplinary history in deciding to terminate her employment. Because the record contains that characteristic. The purpose of the similarly situated requirement is to provide a basis for a judgment about the fairness of the employer’s decision. Factors never considered by the employer cannot provide any insight as to whether the employer’s decision was motivated by discriminatory intent.”

Reversed and Remanded.

10-3214 Eaton v. Indiana Department of Corrections

Appeal from the United States District Court For the Southern District of Indiana, Magnus-Stinson, J., Gotschall, J.

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