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Friday, April 27, 2018

McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 3): Proving Pretext

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the McDonnell Douglas Framework (Framework), as applied by Washington State courts, how does a plaintiff prove step 3 -- pretextHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
(To learn about the entire Framework and how it is applied, read our recent article entitled: The McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework)

THE MCDONNELL DOUGLAS FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework has three steps:
STEP 1The "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). 

A CLOSER LOOK: STEP 3 -- PROVING PRETEXT


Under the Framework, if the defendant-employer meets its burden to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action, then the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who must then "produce sufficient evidence showing that the defendant's alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action was a pretext." Id. (citing, Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d at 446) (hyperlink added). Employees can "satisfy the pretext prong by offering sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact either (1) that the defendant's reason is pretextual or (2) that although the employer's stated reason is legitimate, discrimination nevertheless was a substantial factor motivating the employer." Id. (citing, Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d at 446-47) (hyperlinks added).


PRACTICAL OUTCOMES
  1. When "there is no evidence of pretext, the defendant is entitled to dismissal as a matter of law." Kastanis, 122 Wn.2d at 491 (citing, Grimwood v. Univ. of Puget Sound, Inc., 110 Wash.2d 355, 364, 365, 753 P.2d 517 (1988); Carle v. McChord Credit Union, 65 Wash.App. 93, 102, 827 P.2d 1070 (1992)) (hyperlink added).
  2. And "[i]f there is evidence of pretext, the case must go to the jury." Id. (citing, Carle, 65 Wash. at 102, 827 P.2d 1070; see also Jones v. Kitsap Cy. Sanitary Landfill, Inc., 60 Wash.App. 369, 373, 803 P.2d 841 (1991)) (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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