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Legal Memorandum: Employment Discrimination Cases in FL

Issue: In employment discrimination cases, how is a pretext for unlawful discrimination proven in Florida?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment discrimination cases; Unlawful discrimination
Jurisdiction: Federal, Florida
Cited Cases: 293 F. Supp. 2d 1274; 775 F.2d 998; 833 F.2d 1525; 460 U.S. 711
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 12/01/2008

In employment discrimination cases, summary judgment is especially inappropriate.

Courts have recognized that in discrimination cases, an employer’s true motivations are particularly difficult to ascertain, see United States Postal Service Board of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 716, 103 S. Ct. 1478, 1482, 75 L.Ed.2d 403 (1983) (acknowledging that discrimination cases present difficult issues for the trier of fact, as “[t]here will seldom be ‘eyewitness’ testimony as to the employer’s mental processes”), thereby making such factual determinations generally unsuitable for disposition at the summary judgment stage.   Lowe v. City of Monrovia, 775 F.2d 998, 1009 (9th Cir.1985) (stating that very little additional evidence is required to raise a genuine issue of fact regarding motive, and concluding that summary judgment on the merits is ordinarily inappropriate once a prima facie case has been established).

Hairston v. Gainesville Sun Publ’g Co., 9 F.3d at 919-20 (reversing summary judgment).  In employment discrimination cases, when the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, summary judgment is especially “unsuitable” given “the ‘elusive factual question’ of intentional discrimination.”  Id. at 921 (citation omitted).

Thus, the plaintiff’s pretext burden, like the initial burden, may be satisfied indirectly.  “[T]he plaintiff may satisfy this burden indirectly by undermining the legitimacy of the employer’s proffered reason.”  Muñoz v. Oceanside Resorts, Inc., 223 F.3d at 1346.  When establishing pretext, the employee need not produce any evidence beyond what he or she produced at the prima […]

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