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Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States

February 21, 2006, Decided

No. 05-379.

Opinion

 [*455]   [***1056]   [**1196]  PER CURIAM.

Petitioners Anthony Ash and John Hithon were superintendents at a poultry plant owned and operated by respondent Tyson Foods, Inc. Petitioners, who are African-American, sought promotions to fill two open shift manager positions, but two white males were selected instead. Alleging that Tyson had discriminated on account of race, petitioners sued under Rev. Stat. § 1977, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

A trial proceeded in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. At the close of the plaintiffs' evidence,  [****2]  Tyson moved for judgment as a matter of law, see Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 50(a). The District Court denied the motion, and the jury found for petitioners, awarding compensatory and punitive damages. The employer renewed its motion for judgment under Rule 50(b). The District Court granted the motion and, in the alternative, ordered a new trial as to both plaintiffs under Rule 50(c). App. to Pet. for Cert. 35a; see generally  Unitherm Food Sys. v. Swift-Eckrich, Inc., ante, at 399-406 (discussing Rule 50).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part.  129 Fed. Appx. 529, 536 (2005) (per curiam). As to Ash, the court affirmed the grant of the Rule 50(b) motion, deeming the trial evidence insufficient to show pretext (and thus insufficient to show unlawful discrimination) under the burden-shifting framework set forth in  McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973).  129 Fed. Appx., at 533-534. As to Hithon, the court reversed the Rule 50(b) ruling, finding there was enough evidence to go to the jury. The court, however, affirmed the District [****3]  Court's alternative remedy of a new trial under Rule 50(c), holding that the evidence supported neither the decision to grant punitive damages nor the amount of the compensatory award, and thus that the  [*456]  District Court did not abuse its discretion in ordering a new trial.  Id., at 536.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals, and the trial court rulings it affirmed, may be correct in the final analysis. In the course of its opinion, however, the Court of Appeals erred in two respects, requiring that its judgment now be vacated and the case remanded for further consideration.

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546 U.S. 454 *; 126 S. Ct. 1195 **; 163 L. Ed. 2d 1053 ***; 2006 U.S. LEXIS 1816 ****; 97 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 641; 87 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,263; 19 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 99

ANTHONY ASH ET AL. v. TYSON FOODS, INC.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by  Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 190 Fed. Appx. 924, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 19750 (11th Cir. Ala., Aug. 2, 2006)

Prior History:  [****1]  ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT.

 Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 129 Fed. Appx. 529, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 7219 (11th Cir. Ala., 2005)

CORE TERMS

qualifications, pretext

Labor & Employment Law, Racial Discrimination, Evidence, Circumstantial & Direct Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Discrimination, Title VII Discrimination, General Overview