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Bio v. Inventiv Health Clinical, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 31, 2019

MAMAN BIO, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendant inVentiv Health Clinical, LLC (“inVentiv”) (Filing No. 68). Plaintiff Maman Bio (“Bio”) filed this lawsuit after inVentiv terminated him from his management position with the company. Bio filed this action asserting claims for gender, race, and national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”), as well as a claim for retaliation. After answering the Complaint, inVentiv filed the instant Motion, asserting that Bio was terminated for legitimate business reasons, and there is no evidence of discrimination. For the following reasons, the Court grants inVentiv's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Bio as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         inVentiv is a health industry company that provides clinical, commercial, and consulting services to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and life sciences companies. It enters into project-based contracts with pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly and Company (“Lilly”), Bayer, and Pfizer. Under these contracts, teams of inVentiv employees provide statistical analysis staffing and services for discrete clinical research projects and other needs as defined by its clients (Filing No. 70-1 at 2).

         Distinct groups within inVentiv provide contracted services to clients, including strategic resourcing, which serves early-stage clinical research ventures; Phase II-III, which serves clients in mid-stage phases of clinical trials; and late stage, which focuses on Phase IV studies of FDA-approved products (Filing No. 70-2 at 6; Filing No. 70-3 at 10).

         Bio is Black and was born in Niger, Africa. He began working for inVentiv in February 2010 as a senior statistical programmer. He was the only Black employee in the statistical programming group, and he was the only employee from Niger. Bio's duties as a senior statistical programmer were to provide programming work for inVentiv's clients. He performed his duties well, and his work evaluations were “meets expectations” or better (Filing No. 74-1 at 3).

         In November 2012, Bio was promoted to the position of manager in the statistical programming group. After his promotion, Bio's supervisor was Steve Benjamin (“Benjamin”), the director of the group. Bio's duties as a manager of statistical programming were to assign programming projects to the programmers on his team, monitor those projects to ensure they were done properly, evaluate the performance of programmers on his team and audit their time entries to ensure they were properly billing and coding, tracking billing receipts, and consulting and communicating with inVentiv's clients regarding projects. Id. at 3-4.

         Bio and his team provided services on statistical programming projects for Lilly (Filing No. 70-1 at 3; Filing No. 70-4 at 5-7). The statistical programming managers in the Lilly group each supervised approximately ten statistical programmers (Filing No. 70-1 at 3). When Bio became a manager in November 2012, he was one of eleven managers. After February 2014, he was one of four managers. After February 2014, Bio no longer communicated and consulted with Lilly; instead, Aicha Bassile (“Bassile”), another manager, became the liaison with Lilly (Filing No. 74-1 at 2, 4).

         In March 2014, Lilly communicated to inVentiv that it was insourcing its oncology projects performed by inVentiv, which included the statistical programming work performed by Bio's team. inVentiv held a meeting with its managers to discuss its insourcing strategy. It also created a “frequently asked questions” document as a reference for managers when responding to questions from their team members about the insourcing. Bio attended the managers' meeting and received the follow-up communications about the Lilly insourcing. When the oncology projects were insourced by Lilly in March 2014, inVentiv's understanding was that only the oncology projects were being insourced; it believed that the other Lilly work would remain with inVentiv. In fact, the managers were informed that Lilly had renewed its contract with inVentiv for three more years. However, in late 2014 and early 2015, Lilly continued to insource additional statistical programming work (Filing No. 70-1 at 4; Filing No. 70-4 at 29-30; Filing No. 70-5 at 9-12; Filing No. 74-5 at 12-13; Filing No. 74-6 at 22-34).

         Around this same time, as part of inVentiv's reorganization efforts in response to Lilly's insourcing, Bio began reporting to Paul Slagle (“Slagle”), an associate director of statistical programing (Filing No. 70-4 at 11).

         In November 2014, Bio complained to human resources that Slagle was improperly micromanaging him and his team. He sent an email explaining that he was going through a manager/employee situation that prevented him from doing his job properly, and the situation was getting worse. The situation involved the way Slagle was handling Bio's treatment and discipline of a team member who was Slagle's friend. Donna Elbert (“Elbert”), vice president of human resources, met with Bio to discuss his concern. He complained that Slagle was micromanaging him and his team. After the meeting, Elbert investigated Bio's complaint, but she could not find evidence to support the allegations of Slagle's micromanagement (Filing No. 70-4 at 36-40, 61- 63; Filing No. 70-6 at 2-3).

         In January 2015, Bio sent another email to Elbert explaining that his situation was not getting better. Elbert asked Katie Koers (“Koers”), a human resources manager, to meet with Bio and Slagle to discuss their situation. Koers met with Bio and Slagle in February 2015, and at the conclusion of the meeting, Koers believed the dispute had been resolved (Filing No. 70-6 at 3, 14; Filing No. 70-7 at 1). However, the dispute was not resolved, and Bio took his complaints to inVentiv's CEO. (Filing No. 74-1 at 7, ¶43.)

         In late 2014 and early 2015, Bio provided Slagle the performance reviews and employee rankings for the members of his programming team, and Bio recommended promotions for some of his team members. Slagle reviewed Bio's proposed assessments and made some revisions. Bio disagreed with Slagle's revisions. On March 20, 2015, Bio sent an email to Gregg Dearhammer (“Dearhammer”), inVentiv's chief operating officer, and copied Elbert on the email. In the email, Bio explained generally his disagreement with Slagle's management of his team and more specifically the revisions Slagle made to Bio's employee assessments. Dearhammer responded the same day, thanking Bio for raising his concerns and informing him that Elbert and others would evaluate his concerns. Bio's concern was referred to Tracy Mayer (“Mayer”), vice president of strategic resourcing, and Elbert. Mayer and Elbert investigated Bio's concerns and determined that Slagle was properly managing Bio's team and made appropriate revisions to Bio's evaluations and recommendations. On April 7, 2015, Mayer responded to Bio, informing him that the compensation ratings had been investigated and would not be changed (Filing No. 70-4 at 64-68; Filing No. 70-6 at 3-4, 6).

         Bio's team initially had worked exclusively on programming projects for Lilly. However, beginning in September 2014, Bio's team did programming work for non-Lilly companies in addition to its work for Lilly. Slagle and Bio decided to “globalize” the programming work of Bio's team because of Lilly's insourcing. All the managers in the statistical programming group met on a weekly basis to discuss the projects they were working on and to see if any team in the group needed assistance. Bio's team began doing programming work for inVentiv's Phase II-III program, which was led by Nancy Fish, an associate director of statistical programing. Bio estimated that, by May 2015, his team was working on Lilly programming about 20% of the time, and about 80% of their time was spent on non-Lilly work (Filing No. 74-1 at 3-4).

         As Bio's team completed statistical programming projects for Lilly, Lilly was not replacing those completed projects with new work. Bio knew that his team's statistical programming projects for Lilly were diminishing, so he was involved in keeping his team members busy on other teams' projects (Filing No. 70-2 at 5; Filing No. 70-4 at 33-35; Filing No. 70-5 at 4-5, 9-12). From April 2015 until July 2015, Bio was assigned as a manager exclusively to Lilly projects even though his team members were temporarily working on other projects (Filing No. 70-5 at 19).

         Because the Lilly work to which Bio was assigned was coming to an end, in May 2015, Benjamin and Koers began efforts to find another management position at inVentiv for Bio by using the company's redeployment tracker, an internal job placement tool. Bio remained in the redeployment tracker through June 2015, but no management positions were identified for him to fill. During this time, Benjamin asked other directors and managers to consider Bio's team members for permanent assignments. Benjamin frequently communicated to Bio that his team's programming work for Lilly was going to end, his team members would be available for other fulltime assignments in July 2015, and he needed to prioritize permanent placements over temporary assignments for his team members. Bio kept his team ...

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