McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 2): The Employer's Burden

McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 2): The Employer's Burden

Under the McDonnell Douglas Framework, (Framework), as applied by Washington State courts, how does a defendant-employer prove step 2 -- the employer's burdenHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework has three steps:

STEP 1: The "plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a presumption of discrimination." Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446, 334 P.3d 541, (2014) (citing, Riehl, 152 Wn.2d at 149-50; Kastanis v. Educ. Emps. Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26, 865 P.2d 507 (1993)) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).

STEP 2: "[T]he burden shifts to the defendant, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Mikkelsen v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Kittitas County, 189 Wn.2d 516, 527 (Wash. 2017) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added).

STEP 3: "[I]f the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (internal citations omitted) (emphasis & hyperlink added). 


According to the Framework, "after the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer, who must articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Id. at 533 (citing Scrivener, 181 Wn.2d at 446, 334 P.3d 541) (hyperlink added). "The employer need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons." Id. (citing, Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (hyperlink added). 

"The employer's burden is merely one of production, rather than persuasion." Id. (citing, St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 510, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993)) (hyperlink added). "The employer need only introduce evidence which, taken as true, would permit the conclusion that there was a nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action." Id. (citing St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 509 U.S. at 509) (hyperlink added).

Learn More

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.


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