statement made by her co-trainee constituted sexual harassment. Accordingly, the court concludes that plaintiff's report of the incident constituted a "protected activity," and she has therefore demonstrated the first element of her prima facie case of retaliatory discharge.
As to the second element, there can be no doubt that the defendant was aware of plaintiff's activity. By complaining to her training supervisor about her co-trainee's offensive comment, her activity was necessarily brought to defendant's attention, and thus, plaintiff has successfully demonstrated the second element of her prima facie case. Likewise, since plaintiff's discharge was obviously an adverse employment action, plaintiff has also established the third element of her prima facie case. The plaintiff, however, has failed to establish the fourth element of causation; that is, she is not able to establish that her complaint about the offensive comment was causally related to the adverse employment decisions made against her.
To establish the requisite causal nexus between the protected activity and the adverse employment action, a plaintiff "must present evidence sufficient to raise the inference that her protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse action." Cohen, 686 F.2d at 796; see Devine v. Whelan, No. 90 Civ. 6272, 1993 WL 350049 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 3, 1993). A plaintiff may establish the necessary causal link directly by evidence of retaliatory animus or indirectly by demonstrating that the protected activity was followed closely in time by the adverse action, Manoharan, 842 F.2d at 593; DeCintio, 821 F.2d at 115; Davis, 802 F.2d at 642; Oliver v. Digital Equip. Corp., 846 F.2d 103, 110 (1st Cir. 1988), or by introducing evidence of disparate treatment of other employees engaging in similar conduct. DeCintio, 821 F.2d at 115 (citing Simmons v. Camden County Bd. of Educ., 757 F.2d 1187, 1188-89 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 981, 106 S. Ct. 385, 88 L. Ed. 2d 338 (1985)).
In the case at bar, since plaintiff was not able to produce any direct evidence of retaliatory animus, it was incumbent upon her to indirectly demonstrate the necessary causal link between the protected activity and the adverse action. This she failed to do.
Although the courts have stated that the time proximity between the protected activity and the adverse action of the employer may be a basis for drawing an inference of causation, see, e.g., Rowlett v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 832 F.2d 194, 202 (1st Cir. 1987), courts will not hold an employer legally liable for discharging an employee when the evidence clearly shows that the employee was not performing her job satisfactorily. See Valdez v. Mercy Hosp., 961 F.2d 1401, 1403 (8th Cir. 1992). In other words, "Title VII protection from retaliation for filing a complaint does not clothe the complainant with immunity for past and present inadequacies [and] unsatisfactory performance . . .." Jackson v. Saint Joseph State Hosp., 840 F.2d 1387, 1391 (8th Cir. 1988).
In the instant case, plaintiff has failed to establish causation. From the record, the court cannot conclude that the "protected actions" taken by plaintiff were a "but for" cause of the adverse treatment she later received from the defendant. Specifically, plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the negative evaluations she received were the result of her "protected activity." As a matter of fact, of the two supervisors, Coleman and Corcoran, who evaluated plaintiff's performance and who also testified during trial, plaintiff could not even establish that Corcoran knew of the complaint made by plaintiff, and furthermore, could not establish that Coleman knew of the substantive content of the offensive statement. Thus, there is simply no evidence from which this court can draw an inference that the protected activity was the cause of the negative evaluations.
As to the discharge itself, there is ample evidence to support the conclusion that the discharge was not precipitated by the "protected act." The evidence demonstrates that plaintiff was unassertive and was at times quite confused about her tasks. The evidence further revealed that plaintiff failed to follow simple directions given by her supervisors. Moreover, Postmaster Nealy testified that her mail delivery and casing abilities were acceptable, but that it was her poor attitude which caused her to receive negative evaluations. Nealy ultimately discharged plaintiff based on these evaluations. Plaintiff failed to show that the supervisors were influenced by plaintiff's protected act since one was not aware of the incident in question and the other not aware of the substantive content of the statement itself. From these facts, it is the court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to sustain her burden of establishing that she was effectively forced out of her job in retaliation for reporting the single incident during her training period. Thus, since causation was not shown, plaintiff has failed to sustain her burden with regard to her prima facie case of retaliatory discharge.
Finally, even if the court was to assume arguendo that plaintiff has shown her prima facie case of retaliatory discharge, her claim would nevertheless fail. This is because the defendant has proffered a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for her discharge -- her attitude -- and because plaintiff has failed to submit any evidence to establish that the proffered reason was pre-textual. This analysis would mirror the analysis done under discriminatory discharge. See supra.
With respect to plaintiff's discriminatory discharge claim, the court concludes that although plaintiff was successful in demonstrating her prima facie case, the reasons offered by the defendant for terminating plaintiff were legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons, and ultimately, plaintiff failed to offer evidence to prove that the reasons articulated by defendant's employees were pre-textual in nature. Accordingly, plaintiff's discriminatory discharge claim is dismissed.
With respect to her retaliatory discharge claim, the court concludes that plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie case. Even though plaintiff has demonstrated that she was engaged in a protected activity, that the defendant was aware of such activity, and that plaintiff suffered adverse employment decisions, plaintiff failed to establish a causal nexus between these events. Furthermore, even assuming arguendo that plaintiff made out a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge, the reasons offered by the defendant's employees for terminating her were legitimate non-discriminatory reasons, and as with discriminatory discharge, plaintiff ultimately failed to offer evidence to prove that the reasons articulated by defendant's employees were pre-textual in nature. Accordingly, plaintiff's retaliatory claim under Title VII must also be dismissed.
The clerk of the court is hereby ORDERED to enter judgment in favor of the defendant on all claims and close the file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: January 15, 1994
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge