Duhaime's Law Dictionary


McDonnell Douglas Framework Definition:

A preliminary legal requirement to proving employment discrimination: that the adverse employment decision which is complains of was more likely than not motivated by discrimination.

A term of American employment and human rights law.

Named after the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision of the same name (see legal citation below).

In Salterv Alltel, Justice Boyle of the United States District Court, North Carolina, summarized the McDonnell Douglas framework doctrine as follows:

"[A] plaintiff may avoid summary judgment by establishing that the employer's proffered reasons for termination were a pretext for unlawful discrimination. This is accomplished according to the burden-shifting framework set out by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. Under this scheme, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. To establish a prima facie case against a defendant, the plaintiff must show that the adverse employment decision of which she complains was more likely than not motivated by discrimination.... Thus, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; (3) she was performing her job duties at a level that met her employer's legitimate expectations at the time of the adverse employment action; and (4) the position remained open or was filled by similarly qualified applicants outside the protected class. In the age discrimination context, where the position is filled by a replacement that is also in the ... protected class, a plaintiff can satisfy the fourth element by demonstrating that the replacement employee was significantly younger.

"If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action shifts to the defendant-employer. If the employer provides such a reason, the presumption of unlawful discrimination created by the prima facie case drops out of the picture, and the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to demonstrate that the reason proffered by the employer was merely a pretext for discrimination.

"The plaintiff bears the ultimate burden of proving that the employer intentionally discriminated against him throughout the inquiry."

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