Law School Case Brief
Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Co. - 304 F. Supp. 3d 627 (S.D. Tex. 2018)
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against any individual because of such individual's sex. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, an employee must present direct evidence of discrimination or, in the absence of direct evidence, rely on circumstantial evidence using the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis. For this analysis, the employee carries the burden and must prove that: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she applied for and was qualified for the position; (3) she was rejected despite being qualified; and (4) others similarly qualified but outside the protected class were treated more favorably. If a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to show it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for rescinding the offer. If the employer can show a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason, the presumption of discrimination disappears, and the burden shifts back to the employee to show that the proffered reason was a pretext for discrimination or that the employee's protected status is another motivating factor for the decision.
Plaintiff Nicole Wittmer, a transgender woman, filed a lawsuit in federal district court against defendant Phillips 66 Company for unlawful discrimination based on her sex after Phillips rescinded a job offer it had made after interviewing her. Wittmer alleged that Phillips rescinded her job offer based on her identity as a transgender woman and her failure to conform to female sex stereotypes. After discovery, Phillips filed a moton for summary judgment.
Was Phillips entitled to summary judgment in Wittmer's discrimination action?
The court granted Phillips' motion for summary judgment. The court found that there was no evidence to support Wittmer's claim that her transgender status was the motivating factor in the decision to rescind the offer of employment. Accepting that Wittmer was a member of a protected class, she failed to point to or submit record evidence making a prima facie case that Phillips discriminated against her because of her transgender status or a failure to conform to sex stereotypes. Even if Wittmer had made a prima facie showing of discrimination, Phillips identified a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for rescinding the offer, which was Wittmer's inconsistent descriptions of her employment status with another company.
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