In 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark employment discrimination case, McDonnell Douglas v. Green, outlining a framework for analyzing cases alleging employment discrimination. The McDonnell-Douglas test, as it has come to be known, is applied in nearly all Texas employment discrimination cases.
When the Supreme Court first announced the McDonnell-Douglas test, it was in the context of a defense motion for summary judgment. In other words, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s case before it was even submitted to a jury. Essentially, the argument in a pre-trial motion for summary judgment is that the non-moving party cannot prevail at trial because, as a matter of law, their case is insufficient.
The McDonnell-Douglas test is fairly straightforward, although it can become complex in its application. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. This normally requires that the plaintiff prove that they belong to a protected class and that the employer took some adverse employment action against them. This creates a presumption that the defendant employer engaged in discriminatory conduct.
If the plaintiff is able to establish a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant employer to rebut the presumption by showing that there was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the employment action. Commonly, an employer will attempt to establish that they had a legitimate reason to take the adverse action against the employee by submitting the employee’s disciplinary record or history of lateness, or showing that there have been complaints about the employee by customers or other employees in the workplace.
If the employer is able to offer a legitimate reason, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the reason proffered by the defendant employer was pretextual. This last part of the test gives an employee the opportunity to prove their case by showing that the reason the employer offered was not the actual reason for the adverse employment action. An employee may attempt to prove pretext by showing that the employer had actual bias.
Throughout the McDonnell-Douglas test, the plaintiff bears the ultimate burden to establish that the employer engaged in intentional discrimination. As noted above, the McDonnell-Douglas test is typically used by courts only in summary judgment proceedings, since it has been held by some courts to be too confusing to present to the jury.
Have You Been a Victim of Texas Employment Discrimination?
If you have recently been fired due to what you believe to be a discriminatory reason, you may be able to pursue a Texas employment discrimination case against your employer. Employment discrimination is not limited to situations involving termination, however. Attorney Rob Wiley and his dedicated team of Dallas employment lawyers represent clients who have suffered from all kinds of Dallas workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on sex, race, and religion. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 214-528-6500 today.
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