Employment Discrimination: Pretext, Burden Shifting and Causal Link!

Employers can take heart in their ability to defend against unwarranted claims filed by employees for discrimination under Title VII for acts and events that are remotely connected to the alleged adverse employment action.  In Everroad v. Scott Truck Systems Inc., the Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment on an employee’s claims for gender and age discrimination, and retaliation.

It is important to note the Seventh Circuit’s pronouncements regarding the analysis that applies to discrimination and retaliation claims.  First, an employer’s assertion of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the termination often overlaps with the employee’s burden of establishing that he or she was meeting her employer’s performance expectations.

Thus, it may be that in some instances employers are able to assert insubordination to defeat an employee’s argument that they have established a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation.   The Seventh Circuit also stated that to establish pre-text, the employee must demonstrate that the employee’s stated reason is dishonest or a lie rather than an oddity or an error.

Moreover, employees cannot rely upon a single statement that occurred more than a year before the employee’s termination to demonstrate a causal link for purposes of a retaliation claim or to establish pretext.  Finally, for analyzing comparatives, the Plaintiff, must establish that the similarly situated employees were treated more favorably at the time of alleged discrimination against the Plaintiff.

We will see how the Everroad opinion impacts the typical burden shifting analysis for claims of discrimination based on indirect evidence.  However, for now, employers can take heart about the fact that they have the ability to defend themselves from frivolous or unwarranted claims of discrimination.

For additional info see: Everroad Case_051110

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