Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff was a female employee of the Texas Department of Community Affairs. She filed a gender discrimination lawsuit when she was not promoted and was terminated and males were hired in her place.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An employee’s prima facie discrimination case may be rebutted by the employer by offering admissible evidence that would allow a trier of fact to rationally conclude that the employment decision was not based on discrimination.
By applying McDonnell Douglas's shifting burdens of production in the context of a motion for summary judgment, the judge will determine whether the litigants have created an issue of fact to be decided by the jury.View Full Point of Law
Issue. After plaintiff has proved a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment, does the burden shift to defendant to persuade the court by a preponderance of the evidence that legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenged employment action exist?
Held. Justice Powell issued the opinion for the United States Supreme Court in reversing the Court of Appeals and holding that after a plaintiff has proved a prima facie case, the defendant only need “explain clearly the nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions.”
Discussion. A defendant only needs to raise a “genuine issue of fact” whether plaintiff was discriminated against. The defendant should explain why the plaintiff was not hired or terminated. A jury will be able to evaluate the credibility and reliability of both parties’ evidence, but the plaintiff retains the burden to persuade the jury.