Documentation and communication FTW! (Well, good enough.)


After completing a 90-day orientation program for newly licensed nurses, a woman was denied a full-time position as a Registered Nurse (RN) at a hospital and, instead, transferred into a lower-paying position at another facility that the same employer operated.

The woman — we’ll call her “Plaintiff” as we usually do here — alleged race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A plaintiff asserting a Title VII claim for race discrimination must present a convincing mosaic to the factfinder that race motivated the adverse employment action — in this case, the denial of the full-time RN position.

Defendant produced all sorts of documented progress forms demonstrating that Plaintiff underperformed during the orientation period. Although Plaintiff disagreed with Defendant’s assessment, that was not enough to establish that their reasons for not moving her into a full-time RN position were a pretext for race discrimination.

Plaintiff also argued that Defendant did not adequately apprise her of its performance concerns. However, the Seventh Circuit concluded that Defendant’s communications left no room for doubt.

Defendant produced “four Progress Forms and records from six Progress Meetings.” Plaintiff signed most of them. While Plaintiff claimed that her missing signature on the others could reflect Defendant’s ulterior motive to discriminate against her, the appellate court found “too much other evidence that [Plaintiff] knew of [Defendant’s] concerns with her performance.”

For example, one of the more pointed notes that Plaintiff signed included a supervisor note that, even though Plaintiff had two weeks left in her training, she needed “no less than eight more weeks of orientation.” The supervisor explained that Plaintiff still required prompting to complete basic tasks, had never completed a patient admission, still needed to develop critical thinking skills to anticipate patient needs, and was not yet managing a full patient load.

A timely critique, documented, supported by specific examples. Gold star!⭐

Plaintiff signed this form. So, she knew about critical feedback two weeks before her dismissal, which also ruled out any suggestion that Defendant fabricated its criticism of Plaintiff’s performance after the fact.

Even with the unsigned progress notes, Plaintiff conceded that she met with Defendant to discuss her progress. And Plaintiff didn’t claim general unawareness of the concerns with her performance. Indeed, the forms she signed discussed deficiencies. Plaintiff could not disprove how and when Defendant informed her about her performance deficiencies. 

So while the documentation and communication weren’t perfect here — it seldom is — there was enough of it to justify Defendant’s legitimate business decision. And Plaintiff could not establish that race motivated Defendant’s decision to transfer her to a lower-paying position.

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