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Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa

Supreme Court of the United States

April 21, 2003, Argued ; June 9, 2003, Decided

No. 02-679

Opinion

 [*92]   [***90]   [**2150]  Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question before us in this case is ] whether a plaintiff must present direct evidence of discrimination in order to obtain a mixed-motive instruction under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 [****6]  Act). We hold that direct evidence is not required.

] Since 1964, Title VII has made it an "unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual [*93]  . . ., because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 78 Stat 255, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) [42 USCS § 2000e-2(a)(1)] (emphasis added). In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268, 109 S. Ct. 1775 (1989), the Court considered ] whether an employment decision is made "because of" sex in a "mixed-motive" case, i.e., where both legitimate and illegitimate reasons motivated the decision. The Court concluded that, under § 2000e-2(a)(1), an employer could "avoid a finding of liability . . . by proving that it would have made the same decision even if it had not allowed gender to play such a role."  Id., at 244, 104 L Ed 2d 268, 109 S Ct 1775; see id., at 261, n, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268, 109 S. Ct. 1775 (White, J., concurring in judgment); id., at 261, 104 L Ed 2d 268, 109 S Ct 1775 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). The Court was divided, however, over the predicate question of when the burden of proof may be shifted to an employer to prove the affirmative defense.

Justice Brennan, writing for a plurality [****7]  of four Justices, would have held that  [**2151]  "when a plaintiff . . . proves that her gender played a motivating part in an employment decision, the defendant may avoid a finding of liability only by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have made the same decision even if it had not taken the plaintiff's gender into account."  Id., at 258, 104 L Ed 2d 268, 109 S Ct 1775 (emphasis added). The plurality did not, however, "suggest a limitation on the possible ways of proving that [gender] stereotyping played a motivating role in an employment decision."  Id., at 251-252, 104 L Ed 2d 268, 109 S Ct 1775.

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539 U.S. 90 *; 123 S. Ct. 2148 **; 156 L. Ed. 2d 84 ***; 2003 U.S. LEXIS 4422 ****; 71 U.S.L.W. 4434; 91 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1569; 84 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P41,403; 61 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 708; 2003 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4839; 2003 Daily Journal DAR 6128; 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 335

DESERT PALACE, INC., dba CAESARS PALACE HOTEL & CASINO, Petitioner v. CATHARINA F. COSTA

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

 Costa v. Desert Palace, Inc., 299 F.3d 838, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 15484 (9th Cir. Nev., 2002)

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

direct evidence, mixed-motive, cases, motivating factor, sex, circumstantial evidence, employment decision, employment practice, preponderance of evidence, demonstrates, gender, affirmative defense, heightened, motivating, provisions, damages, played

Civil Procedure, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Title VII Discrimination, Amendments, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Disability Discrimination, Racial Discrimination, Mixed Motive, Gender & Sex Discrimination, Defenses, Declaratory Judgments, State Declaratory Judgments, Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Costs & Attorney Fees, Statutory Attorney Fee Awards, Remedies, Costs & Attorney Fees, Affirmative & Equitable Relief, Injunctions, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Scope & Definitions, Evidence, Admissibility, Circumstantial & Direct Evidence, Types of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Criminal Law & Procedure, Particular Instructions, Reasonable Doubt, Use of Particular Evidence