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Sunday, September 9, 2018

FREE Legal Forms: AK, CA, HI, ID, OR, WA


   
by Gregory Williams, Esq. |  What are some free resources for reliable and trusted legal forms in Washington State, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho and Oregon? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding). 

WASHINGTON STATE
FREE Washington State Legal Forms is a website designed, developed, and maintained by Attorney Gregory Williams. It both provides free access to trusted legal forms and offers reliability reviews for each source website.

Free forms are categorized and include, but are not limited to, the following subjects:

ALASKA, CALIFORNIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, & OREGON

We've received an overwhelming response to our FREE Legal Forms websites, and we're in the process of enhancing the websites for these states by (1) adding security certificates, (2) making them mobile friendly, and (3) migrating them to a safer and more reliable hosting provider (to see these enhancements, visit our WA State website). In the meantime, these websites will be down. Please check back soon!



 
   


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, September 8, 2018

The McDonnell Douglas Burden Shifting Framework

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State law, what is the McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting Framework (hereinafter, "McDonnell Douglas Framework" or "McDonnell Douglas") and how is it appliedHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


 THE ORIGIN OF THE FRAMEWORK

The McDonnell Douglas Framework is also known as a burden-shifting scheme. "The burden-shifting schemes, developed initially in the federal courts, were an effort to formulate uniform rules for making a prima facie case." Kastanis v. Educational Employees Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26 (1993) (hyperlink added). "These rules were never intended as a charge to the jury." Id. (citing, United States Postal Serv. Bd. of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 716, 103 S.Ct. 1478, 1482, 75 L.Ed.2d 403 (1983)). "Recognizing the 'lack of harmony' among judges on the rules applicable to establishing a prima facie case under title VII, the Supreme Court addressed the difficulty by formulating a 3-step burden-shifting test in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 801, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)." Id. (hyperlink added).


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 & 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 & 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 & hyperlink added). 

THE POLICY BEHIND THE FRAMEWORK

"The purpose of establishing the prima facie elements under McDonnell Douglas is to 'eliminate[ ] the most common nondiscriminatory reasons for the plaintiff's rejection,' namely, that the plaintiff is unqualified for the position or that the position no longer exists." Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 531 (citing, Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253-54, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981)) (emphasis added) (hyperlink added).


WASHINGTON STATE ADOPTS THE FRAMEWORK

Intentional discrimination is difficult to prove. See Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 526 (internal citations omitted). Direct, 'smoking gun' evidence of discriminatory motivation is uncommon, because there will rarely be "eyewitness testimony as to the employer's mental processes." Id. (internal citations omitted). As a result, Washington State courts have "repeatedly emphasized that plaintiffs may rely on circumstantial, indirect, and inferential evidence to establish discriminatory action." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, the Washington State Supreme Court "has adopted the standard articulated by McDonnell Douglas in discrimination cases that arise out of RCW 49.60.180 and the common law." Kastanis v. Educational Employees Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 490, 859 P.2d 26 (1993) (citing, Grimwood v. Univ. of Puget Sound, Inc., 110 Wash.2d 355, 364, 753 P.2d 517 (1988); Baldwin v. Sisters of Providence in Wash., Inc., 112 Wash.2d 127, 136, 769 P.2d 298 (1989)) (emphasis added) (hyperlinks added).


SUMMARY JUDGMENT

At summary judgment, the following are special considerations, inter alia, when applying the McDonnell Douglas Framework to WLAD claims:
[1] Summary judgment for an employer is seldom appropriate in employment discrimination cases because of the difficulty of proving discriminatory motivation. 
[2] When the record contains reasonable but competing inferences of both discrimination and nondiscrimination, the trier of fact must determine the true motivation.
[3] To overcome summary judgment, the plaintiff needs to show only that a reasonable jury could find that discrimination was a substantial factor in the employer's adverse employment action. 
See Mikkelsen, 189 Wn.2d at 527-28. 


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, September 1, 2018

Pretext: Scrivener Corrects the Fulton Error

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under both Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the McDonnell Douglas Framework, can a failure-to-promote plaintiff prove that discrimination was a substantial factor motivating the employer, even though the employer’s stated reason is legitimate? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).

Proving Discrimination In Washington


-Substantial Factor-

Under the WLAD–and with few exceptions–it is an unfair practice for any employer to refuse to hire any person because of age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification.

At trial, the WLAD plaintiff must ultimately prove that the protected class was a substantial factor in an employer’s adverse employment action. See Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 444, 334 P.3d 541 (Wash. 2014) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

A “substantial factor” means that the protected characteristic was a significant motivating factor bringing about the employer’s decision. Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). It does not mean that the protected characteristic was the sole factor in the decision. Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

-Proof By Circumstantial Evidence-

To overcome summary judgment, a plaintiff needs to show only that a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff’s protected trait was a substantial factor motivating the employer’s adverse actions. Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 445, 334 P.3d 541 (Wash. 2014) (internal citation omitted). This is a burden of production, not persuasion, and may be proved through direct or circumstantial evidenceId. (internal citation omitted) (emphasis added).

Where a plaintiff lacks direct evidence, Washington courts use the burden shifting analysis articulated in McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. 792, to determine the proper order and nature of proof for summary judgment. Id. (internal citations omitted) ( emphasis added).

Thus, at summary judgment, Washington State courts typically apply the McDonnell Douglas Framework to decide employment discrimination issues where plaintiffs offer proof by circumstantial evidence.

The McDonnell Douglas Framework


The McDonnell Douglas Framework is a three pronged test; and in Scrivener the Washington State Supreme Court defined the test as follows:

Under the first prong of the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination, which creates a presumption of discrimination. (citations omitted). Once the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, [under the second prong] the burden of production shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. (citations omitted).

If the Defendant meets this burden, the third prong of the McDonnell Douglas test requires the Plaintiff to produce sufficient evidence that Defendant’s alleged nondiscriminatory reason for [the employment action] was a pretext. (citations omitted). Evidence is sufficient to overcome summary judgment if it creates a genuine issue of material fact that the employer’s articulated reason was a pretext for a discriminatory purpose. (citations omitted).

If the plaintiff satisfies the McDonnell Douglas burden of production requirements, the case proceeds to trial, unless the judge determines that no rational fact finder could conclude that the action was discriminatory. (citations omitted).

Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446, 334 P.3d 541 (Wash. 2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

At this point, I’ve gone over enough information to warrant revisiting the main issue of this article: under both Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the McDonnell Douglas Framework, can a failure-to-promote plaintiff circumstantially prove that discrimination was a substantial factor motivating the employer, even though the employer’s stated reason is legitimate?  The answer lies in the proper definition and application of the third prong of McDonnell Douglas — pretext.

The Fulton Error


The definition of “pretext” under McDonnell Douglas has contracted and expanded over the last two decades as a result of the “Fulton Error.”  In 2014, the Washington State Supreme Court, in Scrivener v. Clark College, essentially described the Fulton Error as follows:
  1.  In 1995, the Court of Appeals in Kuyper v. Dep’t of Wildlife, 79 Wn.App. 732, 738-39, 904 P.2d 793 (1995), listed the following four factors as examples of how to prove the defendant’s articulated reasons were pretextual:  (1) the reason has no basis in fact, (2) it was not really a motivating factor for the decision, (3) it lacks a temporal connection to the decision, or (4) was not a motivating factor in employment decisions for other employees in the same circumstances.
  2. In 2000, the Court of Appeals in Fulton v. Dep’t of Soc. & Health Servs., 169 Wn.App. 137, 161, 279 P.3d 500 (2012), repeated these four factors, omitting that they were only examples – thus creating the “Fulton Error.”
  3. In 2013, the Court of Appeals in Scrivener v. Clark Coll., 176 Wn.App. 405, 309 P.3d 613 (2013), review granted, 179 Wn.2d 1009, 316 P.3d 495 (2014), repeated the Fulton Error, overlooking that a plaintiff may also establish pretext by proving that discrimination was a substantially motivating factor in the employment decision.
Eventually, the Washington State Supreme Court decided it was time to address the Fulton Error.

The Pretext Prong


In 2014, the Washington State Supreme Court elected to review the 2013 Scrivener decision and found that an employee may 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. Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 446-47, 334 P.3d 541 (Wash. 2014). Moreover, the court found that an employee does not need to disprove each of the employer’s articulated reasons to satisfy the pretext burden of production.  Id. at 447 (internal citation omitted). The court went on to say,

[O]ur case law clearly establishes that it is the plaintiff’s burden at trial to prove that discrimination was a substantial factor in an adverse employment action, not the only motivating factor. (internal citation omitted). An employer may be motivated by multiple purposes, both legitimate and illegitimate, when making employment decisions and still be liable under the WLAD. 

Id. at 447(internal citations omitted).

The Scrivener Correction


The court then squarely addressed the Fulton Error and ruled, “A plaintiff may satisfy the pretext prong using one of the four factors listed by the Court of Appeals, but the plaintiff may also satisfy the pretext prong by presenting sufficient evidence that discrimination nevertheless was a substantial factor motivating the employer.” Id. at 448 (emphasis added).


Conclusion


Thus, I believe that under both Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the McDonnell Douglas Framework, a failure-to-promote plaintiff can prove that discrimination was a substantial factor motivating the employer, even though the employer’s stated reason is legitimate.


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.

–gw