The McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework: Dallas employment discrimination lawyer explains
Employment discrimination lawsuits are complex suits due to the intense focus on the facts and law involved. Many employment discrimination cases never make it trial because they fail to survive summary judgement. (Or because they settle at some point before trial.) In the journey of litigating an employment discrimination claim many reach summary judgment. Summary judgment is an analysis of the legal issues in a claim before a factfinder adjudicates the facts. In an employment discrimination suit alleging disparate treatment (different treatment on the basis of a protected trait), the plaintiff’s claim of disparate treatment is typically reviewed on summary judgment under the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework. This framework is extremely important in employment discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuits.
If you believe you have an employment discrimination or wrongful termination claim in Fort Worth or Dallas then you should talk to an employment attorney ASAP.
The McDonnell Douglas framework in employment litigation in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
The McDonnell Douglas framework shifts the burdens between the parties unlike most other claims. In typical litigation a party has the burden of production to produce evidence supporting its claim or affirmative defense. However, in employment discrimination the plaintiff may not know the employer’s nondiscriminatory rationale. Rather than force the plaintiff to conduct expensive discovery to fish out the employer’s reasoning and the burden shifting framework shifts the burden to the employer to produce a nondiscriminatory reason. Then it shifts the burden back to the employee-plaintiff to disprove the alleged nondiscriminatory reason for the employer’s conduct. So the McDonnell Douglas framework is:
1. The plaintiff must plead and prove a prima facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence (a prima facie case will be described below);
2. The burden of production shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory motive for its conduct;
3. The burden of production shifts back to the employee to prove the employer’s provided motive is pretext for the discriminatory conduct.
The employee’s first task is to prove the prima facie case, which will differ depending upon the plaintiff’s allegations. Generally the prima facie case will begin with proving the plaintiff belongs to a protected group. The most difficult part of the McDonnell Douglas framework is proving the employer’s offered nondiscriminatory motive was pretextual. That means it is a false excuse to cover up the true discriminatory motive.
The McDonnell Douglas framework works in cases where the plaintiff’s allegations rely on circumstantial evidence. Where there are mixed motives or direct evidence of discrimination the Price Waterhouse framework is typically applied. Employment attorneys in Fort Worth and Dallas can discuss these frameworks with you in your employment discrimination or wrongful termination suit.