Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Swierkiewicz v. Sorema case brief (2)

Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
Case Citation: 534 U.S. 506 (2002)

Link to full text of case of Swierkiewicz v. Sorema: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=9740279566795661168&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

Facts of the Case

  • The plaintiff began working for defendant as a senior vice president and chief underwriting officer.
  • The defendant was an  insurance agency with a New York headquarters and owned by a French parent corporation.
  • Six years later, the defendant's CEO demoted the plaintiff and gave a French national by the name of Mr.  Papadopoulo the plaintiff's position.
  • A year later, the defendant stated that he wanted to engergize the underwriting department, and as such, appointed Mr. Papadopoulo to the position.  Mr. P. had only one year of underwriting experience at this time. The plaintiff, on the other hand, had 26 years of underwriting experience.
  • Following the demotion, the plaintiff claimed that he was excluded from business decisions and meetings, and that he was denied the opportunity to reach his true potential at the defendant's company.
  • In April, 1997, after being unsuccessful in meeting with the CEO, the plaintiff sent a letter that outlined grievances and requested a severance package.
  • Two weeks after sending the letter, the plaintiff was presented with two options:  He could either resign without the severance package or be dismissed.
  • The CEO fired the plaintiff after he refused to resign.

The plaintiff stated that he had been terminated on account of his national origin with violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Furthermore, the plaintiff stated that he had been terminated on account of his age, which violated the Employment Act of 1967 under age discrimination.

Procedural History

  • The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it was found that the plaintiff did not adequately allege a prima facie case due to not adequately alleging circumstances that supported an inference of discrimination.
  • The Court of Appeals stated that the petitioner was required to allege the following in his complaint:  qualification for the job in question, membership in a protected group, adverse employment action, and circumstances which supported an inference of discrimination.
  • The Second Circuit Court Affirmed.
Did the plaintiff make a claim for which relief could be granted?

Yes, the pleading must give notice, and here it has.


  • The court stated that under a notice pleading system, the plaintiff is not required to plead facts that establish a prima facie case.  This is because, this framework does not apply in every case for employment discrimination.
  • The court criticizes the Second Circuit's heightened pleading standard, stating that a plaintiff without direct evidence of his discrimination at the time of his complaint would have to plead a prima facie case of discrimination, even though discovery would likely uncover direct evidence of discrimination.
  • The Court of Appeals' heightened pleading standard in cases of employment discrimination conflicts with the Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) which provides that the complaint must include only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.
  • This statement is only required to give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which that claim rests.

  • The court stated that the plaintiff’s complaint easily satisfies the requirements of Rule 8(a).  This is because the complaint gives the defendant fair notice of the basis for the plaintiff's claim.
  • Rule 8(a) establishes a pleading standard without regard to whether a claim will succeed on it's merits.
  • The court says: “Indeed it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recover is very remote and unlikely but that is not the test.”

The Supreme Court reversed. 

Why you should understand this case
This case lays out the liberal requirements of notice pleading.
See Also: http://www.lawschoolcasebriefs.net/2011/10/swierkiewicz-v-sorema.html

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