134 F.3d 374 (7th Cir. 1998), 97-2069, El-Marazki v. University of Wisconsin System Bd. of Regents

Docket Nº:97-2069.
Citation:134 F.3d 374
Party Name:Laila EL-MARAZKU, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS and David Larbalestier, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 08, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 374

134 F.3d 374 (7th Cir. 1998)

Laila EL-MARAZKU, Plaintiff-Appellant,


UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM BOARD OF REGENTS and David Larbalestier, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 97-2069.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 8, 1998

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA7 Rule 53 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

Argued Dec. 16, 1997

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Before ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge FLAUM, Circuit Judge EVANS, Circuit Judges.


In the spring of 1995. Laila El-Marazki ("Marazki") was laid-off from her job of assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin Engineering Department's Applied Superconductivity Center ("ASC"). Marazki, who attributes the loss of her job to gender and national origin discrimination, filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688, against the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents ("University of Wisconsin") and David Larbalestier, the director of the ASC. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Marazki appeals this determination on grounds that genuine issues of material fact remain in dispute.

Marazki is an Egyptian woman who earned her Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin in 1981. In 1987, Marazki was hired, along with her husband (who was also a scientist), by the University of Wisconsin to work as an assistant scientist in the ASC. The actual hiring was done by Dr. Roger Boom, the director of the ASC When Dr. Boom retired in 1991 or 1992 (the parties dispute the actual date), David Larbalestier assumed Dr. Boom's position as director of the ASC. Because the ASC is completely funded by outside research contracts, grants, and awards, all scientific staff salaries are contingent upon the continued influx of outside funding.

Marazki was hired specifically to work with Dr. Boom on the superconductive magnetic energy storage project, a distinct research project within the ASC funded by large defense contractors and committed to developing a power source for ground-based lasers. Marazki was the only female scientist working on this project. In the late 1980's, the project's purpose largely was vitiated by the Department of Defense's decision to eliminate ground-based lasers from its strategic Defense Initiative. As a result, funding for the project mostly disappeared and the project's staff was cut back. In January of 1992, Associate Dean of Research Greg Moses, Dr. Boom's replacement as supervisor of the magnetic energy storage group, issued lay-off notices to three scientists: Marazki, Marazki's husband, and Mostafa Abdelsalam. Shortly after Marazki's lay-off, the ASC hired a white male scientist named Bob Witt. Marazki's lay-off lasted just three months, however, as additional funds were received from the Department of Defense and she was reinstated.

In or around 1992, Dr. Boom requested that Marazki be promoted from assistant scientist to associate scientist. Dean Moses found Marazki's publications and research achievements to be inadequate, however, and therefore denied the promotion. In 1993, Marazki received a below average pay increase. When she complained. Larbalestier and Abdelsalam told her that her raise was related to her meager publication record.

In 1994, Larbalestier developed a uniform, formalized evaluation process for the staff scientists Consequently, all scientists on the ASC staff submitted annual summaries of their publications, presentations, and contributions to the scientific community, which were then reviewed and rated by "principal investigators," or project leaders, within the ASC. The ratings provided the basis for determining wage increases In both 1994 and 1995, Marazki received average to below average evaluations based on the fact that her publication record and overall productivity were below that of her peers and of a lesser quality than expected of a scientist with ten years' post doctoral experience In 1994, while most scientists received a rating of three or higher out of five, Marazki and one male scientist received a rating of two.

In 1995, Marazki approached Larbalestier about doing friction testing research under contract with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Larbalestier supported her possible participation in this project. Instead of following school protocol by submitting a draft proposal and budget to her department administrator, however, Marazki faxed a proposed budget directly to Lawrence Livermore. Marazki's proposed budget contained numerous miscalculations that caused her to underestimate the total cost of her research by tens of thousands of dollars Moreover, as the research completion date of September 30, 1995 neared, it became clear that Marazki would be unable to finish her research in time. Ultimately, the project had to be amended to cover ten additional months of research

In June of 1995, funding for the magnetic energy storage project dried up and lay-off notices were again issued to the staff of that project, including Marazki. However, because Marazki had committed herself to finishing the friction research, her lay-off was extended until the completion of that work. Marazki then repeatedly expressed uncertainty as to her ability even to finish the work. Ultimately, Lawrence Livermore agreed to pay Marazki a full-time salary even though she worked only part-time, and Marazki was able to finish the project in June of 1996. At that time, her lay-off became effective and she was terminated from the University of Wisconsin.

Marazki filed this suit on June 28, 1996, alleging that she had been discriminated against in the terms and conditions of her employment by the University of Wisconsin and its agent, David Larbalestier, on account of her race and national origin in violation of Title IX, 42 U. § C. §§ 1981 and 1983. (Marazki later abandoned the § 1981 claim). More specifically, Marazki claimed that she was repeatedly laid-off, denied promotions and salary increases, and generally treated in an inferior manner on account of her gender and Egyptian descent. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment in which they argued that Marazki failed to establish a prima facie case of gender or national origin discrimination because she failed to show that similarly situated men, or similarly situated non-Egyptians, were treated more favorably. Alternatively, the defendants argued that Marazki failed to rebut their legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for treating her as they did. Those reasons are: (1) the loss of funding, and (2) her failure to publish as much as her peers and attain a level of accomplishment expected of a scientist with her amount of experience.

The district court agreed. Applying Title VII analysis to Marazki's Title IX claims, the court concluded that her claims lacked merit because she offered no evidence supporting an inference that the defendants' proffered reasons for treating her as they did were pretextual. The court also dismissed Marazki's § 1983 claim to the extent it overlapped with her Title IX sex discrimination allegations and then dismissed the remainder of the § 1983 claim on grounds that she failed to make out a prima facie case of national origin discrimination Marazki appeals two aspects of the district court's determination: (1) the finding that no genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether she was laid-off in 1992 because of her gender, and (2) the finding that no genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether she was given poor evaluations in 1994 and 1995 because of her gender.

Marazki first contends that the district court erred in concluding that she failed to rebut the defendants' justification for laying her off in 1992. This court reviews the grant of summary judgment de novo, viewing the...

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