Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in Employment Discrimination Cases

Issue: Under Washington law, when is summary judgment granted in employment discrimination cases?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Employment discrimination cases
Jurisdiction: Washington
Cited Cases: 70 Wash. App. 804; 110 Wash. 2d 355; 753 P.2d 517; 856 P.2d 702; 991 P.2d 674; 803 P.2d 841; 786 P.2d 839; 951 P.2d 321; 60 Wash. App. 369
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

Summary judgment should rarely be granted in employment discrimination cases.  Sangster v. Albertson’s, Inc., 99 Wash. App. 156, 991 P.2d 674, 677 (Div. 3 2000); DeLisle v. FMC Corp., 57 Wash. App. 79, 786 P.2d 839, 841 (Div. 1 1990).  In part, the reason is that summary judgment is not appropriate unless there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party demonstrates it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  CR 56(c).  Additionally, all facts and reasonable inferences must be considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.  Kahn v. Salerno, 90 Wash. App. 110, 951 P.2d 321, 325 (Div. 1 1998).  Summary judgment may be granted only if from all the evidence, reasonable persons could reach but one conclusion, and that in the moving party’s favor.

Moreover, in employment discrimination cases, as in cases generally, the party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden to show that there is no dispute as to any material fact.  Id.  Only if that burden is met does the burden shift to the nonmoving party to produce evidence that tends to establish the existence of an element essential to its case.  Id.  However, this requires only the production of evidence by the nonmoving party; there is no requirement on summary judgment that the nonmoving party carry its ultimate burden of persuasion.  DeLisle, 786 P.2d at 841-42; see Parsons v. St. Joseph’s Hosp.,