Recognizing the challenge that employees face at this pretrial stage, courts have established a special burden-shifting standard to give an employee the opportunity to prove unlawful conduct without direct evidence. A recent case has altered this burden-shifting standard, making it slightly easier for employees to get their day in court. Carvalho-Grevious did not get along well with many individuals in the department, including Austin. As a result, she complained several times to Thompson. Specifically, she stated that Austin was impeding her ability to obtain reaccreditation, preventing her re-election as chairperson, and making discriminatory comments to her about her race and sex. In other words, the defendants argued that Carvalho-Grevious failed to prove that she was retaliated against because of her complaining and not for some other reason.
How do employers have such a good win percentage against their employees? One explanation is their use of motions for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment is a motion asking the judge to summarily decide a case or a specific cause of action within a case without a trial. In essence, a party moving for summary judgment takes the position that both sides agree as to the important or material evidence. When the relevant law is applied to that evidence, the moving party declares that no trial is necessary because it is clear that it would win. A court decision from the Ninth Circuit which many have considered one of the more plaintiff-friendly federal circuits recently made it yet easier for defendant employers to win age discrimination lawsuits at the summary judgment stage.
The shifting burden of proof in discrimination proceedings
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