Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in an Unlawful Employment

Issue: How does a plaintiff defend a summary judgment motion on an employment retaliation claim?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment motion; Unlawful employment practice; Causal connection
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 683 F.2d 339; 8 F.3d 343; 9 F.3d 1033; 150 F.3d 584; 808 F.2d 493
Cited Statutes: Section 2000e-3 of Title VII
Date: 05/01/2000

Section 2000e-3 of Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee because the latter made a charge or participated in an investigation with respect to other unlawful discrimination practices.  See Douglas E. Ray, Title VII Retaliation Cases, 58 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 405 (1997). 

At the summary judgment stage of the proceedings, a plaintiff is not required to fully establish a causal connection; rather, all that is required is that he point to enough evidence in the record to show there is a genuine dispute on the issue.  Patton v. Beardon, 8 F.3d 343, 346 (6th Cir. 1993).  Moreover, evidence that “the protected participation, in fact prompted the adverse action” is not required.  Simmons v. Camden County Bd., 757 F.2d 1187, 1189 (11th Cir. 1985).  Rather, all that is necessary is for the plaintiff to produce evidence showing that “the potential activity and the adverse action were not wholly unrelated.”  Id.  In determining if there is enough evidence to withstand summary judgment the plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences in his favor.  Gantt v. Widean Sporting Goods Co., 143 F.3d 1042, 1045 (6th Cir. 1998).

If there is substantial evidence that adverse actions closely followed protected activity, the plaintiff is entitled to an inference of the requisite “causal connection”.  See Wrenn v. Gould, 808 F.2d 493, 501 (6th Cir. 1987); Cosgrove v. Sears Roebuck & Co.,