Establishing a Prima Facie Case of Discrimination Under Title VII

Establishing a Prima Facie Case of Discrimination Under Title VII

In Latin, prima facie means at first glance. When a litigant is in court, he or she can make a prima facie case by submitting evidence that would be enough to support his or her allegations if they were believed by the jury or judge. When a worker sues his or her employer for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the worker must have enough evidence for a prima facie case of discrimination. If the worker meets that initial burden, the burden of proof shifts to the employer, who must present evidence that there was a nondiscriminatory reason for the disputed employment decision. The worker will then be able to challenge the evidence offered by the employer by showing that the employer’s reasons were pretextual.

Title VII

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against members of the Title VII protected classes. This includes discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, color, race or national origin. Employers are likewise prohibited from retaliating against workers who have participated in an investigation or exercised their rights to file discrimination complaints.

What is a prima facie case of discrimination?

Workers establish a prima facie case by meeting the elements of a test that has been established by the courts. If the workers cannot meet these elements, the employers can request dismissals of the lawsuits. The employee must show all of the following:

  • The worker is a member of a protected class
  • The worker has the qualifications for the job.
  • The worker was denied the job.
  • The employer either filled the job with a worker who is not a member of a protected class or kept the position open without filling it.

What the employer must show

After a worker has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer. The employer must submit evidence showing that the decision was made because of a nondiscriminatory and legitimate reason. For instance, in a case involving an employee who claims that she was fired because she is a woman, an employer might present evidence that the woman was fired because of her poor job performance.

Rebutting the employer’s reason with pretext

After the employer has presented its evidence, the worker will then be able to rebut it by showing that the reason was actually pretextual and that the employer’s real motive was discrimination. The employee might present evidence that rebuts the employer’s reason in order to demonstrate that it indicates discrimination.

The employee ultimately has the burden of proving his or her own discrimination claim. The worker must have enough evidence to convince a jury or judge that discrimination occurred. The employer only has the burden of proving that there is some evidence supporting a legitimate purpose.

Contact an experienced employment law attorney

If you feel that your employer illegally discriminated against you, getting legal help from an experienced employment law attorney might be beneficial. An attorney at Swartz Swidler can offer you an honest assessment of your claim and how you might proceed. Contact Swartz Swidler today to schedule your consultation.