Practical Law Glossary Item 3-517-3961 (Approx. 3 pages)
McDonnell Douglas Burden-Shifting
An evidentiary framework used to analyze whether a plaintiff's disparate treatment discrimination claims should survive a defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment. The McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis is applied when a plaintiff lacks direct evidence of discrimination. It takes its name from the US Supreme Court decision that created the framework, McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Traditional McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting operates as follows:
The plaintiff makes out a prima facie case, which means demonstrating that:
the plaintiff is a member of a protected class;
the plaintiff was qualified for and applied for an available position;
despite being qualified, the plaintiff was rejected for the position; and
the position remained available after the plaintiff's rejection, and the defendant-employer continued to seek applicants from persons of the plaintiff's qualifications.
The burden of production shifts to the defendant-employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employment action.
The plaintiff must then demonstrate that the employer's reason was a pretext for discrimination.