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Wrongful Termination & Pretext

The vast majority of wrongful termination cases are, what are known as, “pretext cases”. What this means is that there isn’t any “direct evidence of discriminatory intent”. This is legal jargon for the fact that there’s no evidence anyone ever said, “I don’t hire ______ people” or something similar. Personal preferences do not, generally, rise to that level. For instance, if a manger says, “I don’t like _______ people”, that’s certainly evidence of animus toward that particular group of people, but there is no evidence of an intent to discriminate contained within the statement itself. As such, it is not considered “direct evidence of discriminatory intent”.

 Such cases generally boil down to whether or not the employer’s reason to terminate was legitimate or merely a cover for discrimination of some kind. After showing that a Plaintiff was terminated and replaced by someone outside their protected class, the employer has an opportunity to respond with a “legitimate non-discriminatory reason” for the Plaintiff’s termination.

 The Plaintiff must then demonstrate that this “legitimate reason” is inconsistent, false or should not be believed for some other reason. This can be done in a number of ways including the introduction of evidence of the racial animus described above.

 It’s important to remember that the exercise described above does not “win” the case for the Plaintiff. It merely gets the case past the summary judgment stage (where the Judge “throws out” the case) and gives the Plaintiff his/her day in court, before a jury.

Should you believe you've been subjected to a discriminatory termination, you can email me at [email protected] You can also call 770-729-4809.

- Jason Carnell

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