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St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks

Supreme Court of the United States

April 20, 1993, Argued ; June 25, 1993, Decided

No. 92-602


 [*504]   [***414]   [**2746]  JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

 We granted certiorari to determine whether, in a suit against an employer alleging intentional racial discrimination in violation of § 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 255, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), the trier of fact's rejection of the employer's asserted reasons for its actions mandates a finding for the plaintiff.

Petitioner St. Mary's Honor Center (St. Mary's) is a halfway house operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections and Human Resources (MDCHR). Respondent Melvin Hicks, a black man, was hired as a correctional officer at St. Mary's in August 1978 and was promoted to shift commander, one of six supervisory positions, in February 1980.

In 1983 MDCHR conducted an investigation of the administration [****7]  of St. Mary's, which resulted in extensive supervisory changes in January 1984. Respondent retained his position, but John Powell became the new chief of custody (respondent's immediate supervisor) and petitioner Steve  [*505]  Long the new superintendent. Prior to these personnel changes respondent  [***415]  had enjoyed a satisfactory employment record, but soon thereafter became the subject of repeated, and increasingly severe, disciplinary actions. He was suspended for five days for violations of institutional rules by his subordinates on March 3, 1984. He received a letter of reprimand for alleged failure to conduct an adequate investigation of a brawl between inmates that occurred during his shift on March 21. He was later demoted from shift commander to correctional officer for his failure to ensure that his subordinates entered their use of a St. Mary's vehicle into the official logbook on March 19, 1984. Finally, on June 7, 1984, he was discharged for threatening Powell during an exchange of heated words on April 19.

Respondent brought this suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleging that petitioner St. Mary's violated § 703(a)(1)  [****8]  of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), and that petitioner Long violated Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, by demoting and then discharging him because of his race. After a full bench trial, the District Court found for petitioners. 756 F. Supp. 1244 (ED Mo. 1991). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, 970 F.2d 487 (1992), and we granted certiorari, 506 U.S. 1042 (1993).

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509 U.S. 502 *; 113 S. Ct. 2742 **; 125 L. Ed. 2d 407 ***; 1993 U.S. LEXIS 4401 ****; 61 U.S.L.W. 4782; 62 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 96; 61 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,322; 93 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4747; 93 Daily Journal DAR 8057; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 553



Disposition: 970 F.2d 487, reversed and remanded.


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Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Title VII Discrimination, General Overview, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Effects, Burdens of Proof, Burdens of Production, Ultimate Burden of Persuasion, Evidence, Burden Shifting, Employee Burdens of Proof, Particular Presumptions, Regularity, Allocation, Civil Procedure, Trials, Bench Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Disability Discrimination, Actionable Discrimination, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review