McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green
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This landmark case made clear that Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of” certain demographic traits and established the burden shifting framework that governs Title VII claims even to the present day.
What Happened in Court
Percy Green was an African American mechanic working for McDonnell Douglas, a St. Louis based aerospace company. A long time participant in the civil rights movement, Green protested the treatment of African Americans outside of his company’s factory. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court where, in a unanimous opinion, the court set forth the burden shifting framework that governs Title VII cases to this day. First, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case which will give rise to the presence of discrimination. Second, the defendant is permitted to offer a non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action suffered by the plaintiff. Finally, the plaintiff must be afforded the opportunity to demonstrate that the defendant’s proffered explanation is mere “pretext” for its discriminatory animus.