Prima Facie Case: The Direct Evidence Method

Prima Facie Case: The Direct Evidence Method


Under Washington State laws, what is the Direct Evidence Method of establishing a prima facie case of employment discrimination? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


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THE PRIMA FACIE CASE (2 OPTIONS)

In Washington State, "[a] plaintiff can establish a prima facie case [of employment discrimination] by either[:]

[1.]  offering direct evidence of an employer's discriminatory intent, or …

[2.]  satisfying the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting test that gives rise to an inference of discrimination.


Alonso v. Qwest Communications Company, LLC, 178 Wn.App 734, 743-44 (Div. 2 2013) (citing Kastanis v. Educ. Emps. Credit Union, 122 Wn.2d 483, 491, 859 P.2d 26, 865 P.2d 507 (1993)) (emphasis, paragraph formatting, and hyperlinks added).

THE DIRECT EVIDENCE METHOD 

The Direct Evidence Method has two elements. Accordingly, "a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case by providing direct evidence that[:]

(1) the defendant employer acted with a discriminatory motive and

(2) the discriminatory motivation was a significant or substantial factor in an employment decision.


Id. at 744 (citing Kastanis, 122 Wn.2d at 491) (paragraph formatting added).

ELEMENT #2: DISCRIMINATORY MOTIVATION WAS SIGNIFICANT/SUBSTANTIAL FACTOR 

To satisfy the second element of the Direct Evidence Method, the plaintiff-employee "must … [establish that] the discriminatory motive was a significant or substantial factor in an employment decision relating to … [plaintiff]." Id. at 746 (referencing Kastanis, 122 Wn.2d at 491). This can be done by identifying associated adverse employment actions.

ADVERSE EMPLOYMENT ACTION

"An adverse employment action involves a change in employment conditions that is more than an inconvenience or alteration of one's job responsibilities, such as reducing an employee's workload and pay." Id. (citing Campbell v. State, 129 Wn.App. 10, 22, 118 P.3d 888 (2005), review denied, 157 Wn.2d 1002 (2006)). "A demotion or adverse transfer, or a hostile work environment, may also amount to an adverse employment action." Id. (citing Kirby v. City of Tacoma, 124 Wn.App. 454, 465, 98 P.3d 827 (2004), review denied, 154 Wn.2d 1007 (2005)) (hyperlink added).

EMPLOYER'S DISCRIMINATORY REMRKS GENERALLY CONSIDERED DIRECT EVIDENCE

Washington Courts "generally consider an employer's discriminatory remarks to be direct evidence of discrimination." Id. (referencing Johnson v. Express Rent & Own, Inc., 113 Wn.App. 858, 862-63, 56 P.3d 567 (2002) ("reversing summary judgment based on supervisor's ageist comments that plaintiff did not fit company's image of a youthful, fit, 'GQ' looking mold" )).

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

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