Hill v. Tangherlini, No. 12-3447 (7th Cir. Aug. 1, 2013)

| Aug 1, 2013 | Daily Developments in EEO Law |

The Seventh Circuit announces that it is overruling language in employment-discrimination cases going back over twenty years, and reminding courts that an employee’s own testimony is, if otherwise relevant, admissible to resist summary judgment. Such testimony will no longer be excluded as “self serving.”

Hill v. Tangherlini, No. 12-3447 (7th Cir. Aug. 1, 2013): The plaintiff, a probationary employee at the federal General Services Administration, filed an EEOC charge challenging his pay level. The charge was settled with a pay increase. 

Still, plaintiff Hill allegedly ran into difficulty in the workplace with his temper. The agency recorded three incidents where Hill got angry at co-workers. Hill disputed these accounts, but the agency terminated him at the end of his probationary term. Plaintiff alleged both race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII.

The panel affirms summary judgment in a brief six-page opinion, holding that the plaintiff failed to present a prima facie claim that he was meeting the agency’s legitimate expectations.

Yet the court published the otherwise-unremarkable decision to call attention to an error by the district court:

“We begin by noting that the district court discredited Hill’s testimony about his interactions with coworkers because of its ‘self-serving’ nature. Hill v. Johnson, No. 11 C 2144, 2012 WL 4483442, at *2 n.6 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 27, 2012). This was error. Deposition testimony, affidavits, responses to interrogatories, and other written statements by their nature are self-serving. [Citation omitted.] As we have repeatedly emphasized over the past decade, the term ‘self-serving’ must not be used to denigrate perfectly admissible evidence through which a party tries to present its side of the story at summary judgment.”

The panel then, in a footnote, expressly overrules contrary language in 24 prior Seventh Circuit opinions dating back as far as 1992.

“Self-serving” testimony, RIP!

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