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Some reminders from the Mass Appeals Court on evidence in employment discrimination cases

Following are a few reminders from the Massachusetts Appeals Court in an employment discrimination case, Scarlett v. City of Boston, out last week on how a case should be analyzed at summary judgment, particularly where the employer's reasons given for the termination are demonstrated to be false. 

 

Summary judgment is a critical stage in any civil case. If a judge grants an employer's motion for summary judgment, it has the effect of dismissing those claims.  

 

  • "An employer seeking summary judgment in a discrimination case faces a high burden because 'the question of the employer's state of mind (discriminatory motive) is elusive and rarely is established by other than circumstantial evidence.'" 

  • "[E]vidence that a reduction in force has a disproportionate impact on members of a protected class sometimes may help establish a prima facie case of discrimination...." 

  • "[W]e are guided by the Supreme Judicial Court's admonition in Sullivan that the plaintiff's burden at this [initial] stage is 'meant to be a small showing that is easily made'... '[t]he fact that [an employer] retained all women nursing supervisors and discharged the only man is sufficient, by itself, to raise a reasonable inference that the hospital selected the man for discharge because of his sex.'" 

  • "Massachusetts is a pretext only jurisdiction....Thus, at this third stage, the employee need only present evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that the rationales advanced by the employer at the second stage were not the real reasons for the adverse employment action...."

 

The above are just a few snippets of the opinion.  They do not break new ground, but they do see a Massachusetts appellate court rearticulating what are some important frameworks in analyzing evidence in employment discrimination cases. 

 

Doorways Employment Law is a virtual employment law practice, leveraging the power of technology to connect with clients in the most efficient and convenient way possible. It specializes in employment law counseling, strategic advice and representation to individuals and businesses across Massachusetts, including on severance/separation agreements. Contact Doorway Employment Law for an employment law consultation.

 

 

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