Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Swierkiewicz v. Sorema case brief (534 U.S. 506)

Swierkiewicz v. Sorema case summary
534 U.S. 506 (2002)

1. Plaintiff began working for Defendant (Insurance agency headquartered in NY, principally owned by a french parent corporation) and was initially employed in position of senior vice president and chief underwriting officer.
2. Six years later, D’s CEO demoted P. and gave a French national, Mr. Papadopoulo, his position.
3. A year later, D stated he wanted to ‘energize’ the underwriting department and appointed Mr. Papadopoulo, who only had one year of underwriting experience when appointed.
4. Mr. Papadopoulo is less experienced than Pl, who had 26 years of underwriting experience with the company.
5. Following demotion, Pl. claims excluded from business decisions and meetings/denied opportunity to reach true potential at Def.’s company.
6. April 1997- P. sent letter after unsuccessful with meeting with CEO, outlined grievances and requesting a severance package. Two weeks later presented with 2 options: he could resign without severance package or be dismissed. CEO fired Pl. after he refused to resign.
-P claimed he had been terminated on account of his national origin in violation of Title VII of Civil Rights ACt of 1964. and on account of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
-US District Court for Southern Dist. of NY dismissed his claim b/c it was found that he “had not adequately alleged a prima facie case, in that he had not adequately alleged circumstances that support an inference of discrimination.
-Court of appeals viewed petitioner was required to allege in his complaint: membership in protected group, qualification for job in question, adverse employment action, circumstances that support an inference of discrimination.
-Second Circuit Court Affirmed. We (Supreme Court) grant certiorari and now reverse.
The prima facie case is an evidential standard, not a pleading requirement.
-This court has reiterated that the prima facie case relates to the employee’s burden of presenting evidence that raises an inference of discrimination.
-This court has never indicated that the requirement for establishing a prima facie case also apply to the pleading standard that plaintiff’s must satisfy in order to survive a motion to dismiss.

-Under a notice pleading system, it is not appropriate to require a Pl. to plead facts establishing a prima facie case because this framework does not apply in every employment discrimination case.
-Under the Second Circuit’s heightened pleading standard, a Pl. without direct evidence of his discrimination at the time of his complaint must plead a prima facie case of discrimination, even though discovery might uncover such direct evidence.
-Court of Appeals’ heightened pleading standard in employment discrimination cases conflicts with Federal Rule of Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2), which provides that a complaint must include only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Such a statement must simply “give the def. fair notice of what the pl.’s claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.”
-Petitioner’s complaint easily satisfies the requirements of Rule 8(a) b/c: gives respondent fair notice of the basis for petitioner’s claim.
-Rule 8(a) establishes a pleading standard w/o regard to whether a claim will succeed on the merits. “Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recover is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.”

See Also: http://www.mycasebriefs.com/swierkiewicz-v-sorema-case-brief/

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1 comment:

  1. Summary of Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., U.S. Supreme Ct. (2002)

    Cause of action: The following is a cause of action for wrongful termination on account of his race in violation of title VII.

    Procedural History: Trial court held PL did not alleged facts constituting a prima facie case of discrimination and Ct. of Appeals, 2nd Circuit affirmed. Certiorari granted, and reversed and remanded.

    Applying Circuit Court precedent, the Court of Appeals required PL to petitioner to plead a prima facie case of discrimination in order to survive respondent’s motion to dismiss.

    Facts: PL suffered alleged racial discrimination by DF employer.

    Issue(s): Under FRCP 12(b)(6), was PL’s alleged employment discrimination cause of action held under the right standard of review when the Court of Appeals used the McDonnell Douglas standard?

    Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: This is a case which should turn merely on the facts supporting an allegation of employment discrimination. Here, the lower court used the McDonnell Douglas standard, which is the standard used for evidence, not for pleading. All PL had to do here was establish at the very least a possibility that DF was guilty of the charge in the plea. No one should have to plead more facts than they might even use at trial to survive a motion to dismiss.

    There is also a conflict with FRCP 8(a), which states the simplified pleas standard is true for all civil rights cases. All PL had to do under 8(a) was give respondent fair notice of the basis for the claim. The fact that the claim may not survive at trial is another story, and not for this Court to decide.

    Rule: Requirements for establishing a prima facie case for employment discrimination, need not prove more facts than necessary to pass muster under FRCP 12(b)(6).

    Holding: Yes. This case was held under the wrong standard in the lower court, one of evidentiary instead of merely surviving a motion to dismiss by DF.


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