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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Definition of Prima Facie Case

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State laws, what is a prima facie caseHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


THE DICTIONARY

The term "prima facie" means "at first sight; on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information." Black's Law Dictionary 1228 (8th ed. 2004). And a "prima facie case" means: "1. The establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption ... [; or] 2. A party's production of enough evidence to allow the fact-trier to infer the fact at issue and rule in the party's favor." Id.


THE CASELAW

The Washington State Supreme Court has declared, "* * * A 'prima facie case' is one where the evidence is sufficient to justify, but not to compel, an inference of liability, or, in other words, evidence to be weighed, but not necessarily to be accepted by a jury or other trier of the fact." Nopson v. City of Seattle, 33 Wn.2d 772, 812, 207 P.2d 674, (1949) (citing McCoy v. Courtney, 25 Wash.2d 956, 962, 172 P.2d 596, 600, 170 A.L.R. 603) (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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Disparate Treatment: A Closer Look


by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination, how does a plaintiff establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


THE MCDONNELL DOUGLAS FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework (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, 189 Wn.2d at 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). 

(To learn about the entire Framework and how it is applied, read our recent article entitled: The McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework)


DISPARATE TREATMENT

Disparate treatment is a legal theory that occurs "when an employer treats some people less favorably than others" because of membership in a protected class. Alonso v. Qwest Communications Company, 178 Wn.App. 734, 753-54, 315 P.3d 610 (Wash.App.Div. 2 2013). "To esablish a prima facie disparate treatment case, a plaintiff must show that his employer simply treats some people less favorably than others because of their protected status." Id. (citing Johnson v. Dep't of Soc. & Health servs., 80 Wn.App. 212, 226, 907 P.2d 1223 (1996)) (hyperlink added). There are several formulations for the elements of a prima facie case of disparate treatment. For example, take our disparate treatment tests based on (1) adverse employment action and (2) termination of employment:



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.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Tort of Battery

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State laws, what is the tort of batteryHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


DEFINITION OF A TORT

A tort is "[a] civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which a remedy may be obtained, usu. in the form of damages; a breach of a duty that the law imposes on persons who stand in a particular relation to one another." Black's Law Dictionary 1526 (8th ed. 2004).


THE TORT OF BATTERY

In Washington State, a "battery" is a tort defined as "an intentional and unpermitted contact with the plaintiff's person." Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc., 180 Wn.2d 481, 504, 325 P.3d 193 (2014). The plaintiff must show that the defendant did the following to establish liability for battery:
(a) he [or she] acts intending to cause a harmful or offensive contact with the [plaintiff or a third party], or an imminent apprehension of such contact, and
(b) a harmful or offensive contact with the [plaintiff] directly or indirectly results.
Id. (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts § 13 (1965)).


THE INTENT ELEMENT

Establishing intent on the part of the defendant is an element of battery. "[T]he 'intent' element of battery is satisfied where a defendant knows to a 'substantial certainty' that his actions will result in the harmful or offensive touching." Id. at 504-05 (internal citations omitted). Thus, an individual "commits a battery where he or she performs '[a]n act which, directly or indirectly, is the legal cause of a harmful contact with another's person' and that act is intentional, is not consented to, and is otherwise unprivileged." Id. at 505 (citing, Garratt v. Dailey, 46 Wn.2d 197, 200, 279 P.2d 1091 (1955) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 13 (1934)) (internal quotation marks omitted). And "[t]hese elements are met where the plaintiff's consent to the contact is procured by fraud or duress." Id. (citing, Garratt, 46 Wn.2d at 201 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 13(b)) (internal quotation marks omitted).


THE OFFENSIVE CONTACT ELEMENT

"A bodily contact is offensive if it offends a reasonable sense of personal dignity." Id. (citing, Restatement (Second) of Torts § 19). Accordingly, "an offensive contact does not have to result in physical injury to constitute a battery." Id. (referencing, Seigel v. Long, 169 Ala. 79, 53 So. 753 (1910) (facts established claim for battery where defendant pushed plaintiff's hat back in order to see his face); Crawford v. Bergen, 91 Iowa 675, 60 N.W. 205 (1894) (facts established claim for battery where defendant placed his hand on the plaintiff's shoulder and asked him an insulting question)).


EXAMPLE: KUMAR v. GATE GOURMET, INC.

In Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc., the employer (Gate Gourmet, Inc.) prohibited employees from both bringing food with them to work and leaving the premises to obtain food -- the policy was based upon security concerns. A group of employee-plaintiffs decided to sue their employer for violation of their religious beliefs when the employer provided them with beef/pork-based foods (in violation of their religion) for lunch that were deceptively designated by the employer as turkey-based, and the vegetarian options actually included animal by-products. When the employees complained, the employer refused to alter the plaintiffs' meals.

One claim, inter alia, was based on the tort of battery. Accordingly, the employees essentially alleged that "Gate Gourmet deceived them into eating food in violation of their religious beliefs, knowing that this would cause an offensive contact." See id. at 505. The Washington State Supreme Court held that the "allegations are sufficient to support a claim for battery at this stage." Id. 


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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

McDonnell Douglas Framework (Step 1): The Prima Facie Case

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the McDonnell Douglas Framework, (Framework), as applied by Washington State courts, how does a plaintiff establish step 1 -- the prima facie caseHere'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 and hyperlink 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 and hyperlink 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 and hyperlink added). 

A CLOSER LOOK: STEP 1 -- THE PRIMA FACIE CASE

The term "prima facie" means "at first sight; on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information." Black's Law Dictionary 1228 (8th ed. 2004). And a "prima facie case" means: "1. The establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption ... [; or] 2. A party's production of enough evidence to allow the fact-trier to infer the fact at issue and rule in the party's favor." Id. 

In Washington State, legal theories under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (proven via circumstantial evidence) have unique and separate formulations for the prima facie case. For example, here are prima facie case requirements for two common legal theories, inter alia:

1. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT (HARASSMENT): to establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment, the plaintiff must show: (1) that the harassment was unwelcome; (2) that the harassment was based on membership in a protected class; (3) that the harassment affected the terms and conditions of employment; and (4) that the harassment can be imputed to the employer. Glasgow v. Georgia-Pacific Corporation, 103 Wn.2d 401, 406-07, 693 P.2d 708 (Wash. 1985). Take our Hostile Work Environment Video Test:

2. UNLAWFUL RETALIATION: to establish a prima facie case of unlawful retaliation, the plaintiff must show (1) that the he/she engaged in a protected activity (e.g., complaining to the employer about job discrimination based on a protected class, participating in an investigation to determine whether discrimination occurred, etc.); (2) that the plaintiff experienced an adverse employment action; and (3) that there is a causal link between the activity and the adverse action. Alonso v. Qwest Communications Company, 178 Wn.App. 734, 753-54, 315 P.3d 610 (Wash.App.Div. 2 2013) (citing, Short v. Battle Ground Sch. Dist., 169 Wn.App. 188, 279 P.3d 902 (Div. 2 2012), overruled on other grounds by Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, Inc., 180 Wn.2d 481, 325 P.3d 193 (Wash. 2014)). Take our Unlawful Retaliation Video Test:


Additional legal theories under the Washington Law Against Discrimination include, but are not limited to, the following: disparate treatment, disparate impact, failure to provide reasonable accommodations, etc. Again, each theory has its own requirements for a prima facie case. Moreover, some elements of the prima facie case may contain additional requirements.


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.