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Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A.

Supreme Court of the United States

January 15, 2002, Argued ; February 26, 2002, Decided

No. 00-1853

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to review a judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff employee's employment discrimination action against defendant employer because the employee's complaint did not allege facts constituting a prima facie case of discrimination under the burden shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas.


The United States Supreme Court found that it was incongruous to require a plaintiff, in order to survive a motion to dismiss, to plead more facts than he might ultimately need to prove to succeed on the merits if direct evidence of discrimination was discovered. The prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas was an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement. The complaint satisfied the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) because it gave the employer fair notice of the basis for the claims. The employee alleged that he was terminated on account of his national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., and on account of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq. His complaint detailed the events leading to his termination, provided relevant dates, and included the ages and nationalities of at least some of the relevant persons involved with his termination. The allegations stated claims upon which relief could be granted.


The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was reversed.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Civil Procedure > ... > Pleadings > Complaints > Requirements for Complaint

Labor & Employment Law > Discrimination > Actionable Discrimination

Civil Procedure > Pleading & Practice > Pleadings > Rule Application & Interpretation

HN1  Complaints, Requirements for Complaint

An employment discrimination complaint need not include specific facts establishing a prima facie case of discrimination and instead must contain only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).


Civil Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > General Overview

HN2  Appeals, Standards of Review

Where an appellate court reviews a decision granting a motion to dismiss, the appellate court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.


Civil Procedure > ... > Class Actions > Prerequisites for Class Action > General Overview

Labor & Employment Law > ... > Evidence > Burdens of Proof > Burden Shifting

HN3  Class Actions, Prerequisites for Class Action

The prima facie case of employment discrimination under McDonnell Douglas is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement. The prima facie case relates to the employee's burden of presenting evidence that raises an inference of discrimination.

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534 U.S. 506 ; 122 S. Ct. 992 ; 152 L. Ed. 2d 1 ; 2002 U.S. LEXIS 1374 ; 70 U.S.L.W. 4152; 88 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1; 82 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P40,899; 51 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 781; 2002 Daily Journal DAR 2152; 15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 124



Disposition: 5 Fed. Appx. 63, reversed and remanded.