In order to evaluate claims under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981, courts use a three-step framework for establishing racial discrimination. The plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case, i.e., that she is a racial minority, that she applied for an available position for which she was qualified, that she was rejected, and that the employer either filled the position with a non-minority or continued its search. The burden then shifts to the employer to rebut the inference of discrimination by producing a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged employment decision. The burden then returns to the plaintiff to show that the proffered reason was pretextual.
A former employee filed suit against her former employer for race discrimination. She alleged that the employer discriminated against her on the basis of race when it did not select her for a promotion, and again when it eliminated her position and allegedly withheld extra severance pay in retaliation for exercising her civil rights. The district court granted the employee summary judgment on the ground that the employer failed to rebut employee's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions.
Was the district court's action proper?
Affirming summary judgment on the discrimination claims, the Court of Appeals held that appellant failed to show that appellee's reasons for her non-selection were pretextual where the job application specified that a doctorate was preferred and she did not have a doctorate. The Court reversed and remanded on the severance pay claim because appellant put forth evidence from which a jury could have concluded that appellee retaliated against appellant by either refusing to give her any extra pay or refusing even to consider it.