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McDonnell Douglas v. Green, (Standard for Proving Discrimination)

• Lorillard v. Pons, (Jury Trial Rights Under ADEA)

• Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, (State Law Remedies Under ADEA)

• Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, (Standard to Evaluate Employer’s Non-Discriminatory Reason for Termination)

• Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, (Senority Rights)

• Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, (Gender/Sex and Age Sterotyping)

• Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association v. Saliminio, (Effect of State Agency Determination)

• Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, (Termination Preceding Pension Vesting)

• St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, (Intentional Discrimination)

• McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., (Reduction in Force Case)

• O’Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers, (Replacement by Younger Worker)

• Reeves v. Sanders Plumbing Products, Inc., (New Standard for Intention Discrimination)

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Summarized United States Supreme Court Cases

McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792 (1973)

This case involved an African-American mechanic/lab technician who was fired in the course of a general reduction in the company’s workforce. The employee was a civil rights activist who, in the period following his termination, engaged in several acts of protest against the company which were non-violent but nonetheless illegal. The Supreme Court used this case to set out a test concerning the order and allocation of proof in a lawsuit challenging employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Court held that a plaintiff must carry the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. This may be done by showing (i) that she belongs to a protected class; (ii) that she applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (iii) that, despite her qualifications, she was rejected; (iv) after that rejection the employer continued to look for applicants with skills similar to those of the plaintiff to fill the job opening. If the plaintiff can establish this, the burden will then shift to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason why the employee was rejected. If the employer is able to meet this relatively low burden, then the burden will shift back to the plaintiff to show that the reason advanced was a pretext for illegal discrimination. Evidence relevant to pretext may be the employer’s treatment of the employee during a prior term of employment, the employer’s reaction to any of the employee’s legitimate civil rights activities, and the employer’s general policy and practice with regard to minority employment.

In McDonnell Douglas, the Court remanded the case back to the Eighth Circuit for disposition in accordance with the test articulated in the opinion. Since its issuance in 1973, all the federal courts have subsequently adopted the order and allocation of proof set out in McDonnell Douglas for all claims of disparate treatment employment discrimination that are not based on direct evidence of discriminatory intent.

For other Supreme Court cases dealing with this subject, see Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981), and Reeves v. Sanders Plumbing Products, Inc., 120 S.Ct. 2097 (2000).

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