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What is Required to Prove Gender Discrimination?

Absent direct evidence of discrimination, victims of gender-based discrimination can prove their claims under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework.

There are three steps to the McDonnell Douglas framework:

  1. the plaintiff starts with the burden of establishing a prima facie employment discrimination case;
  2. once the plaintiff meets that burden, the employer must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for taking the adverse employment action at issue;
  3. finally, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the stated reason for the adverse employment action is a mere pretext for a true discriminatory purpose.

Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-56 (1981).  In the third step, “the burden to demonstrate pretext merges with the ultimate burden of persuading the court that [the plaintiff] has been the victim of intentional discrimination.” Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

To establish a prima facie case of gender-based employment discrimination, the plaintiff must show “(1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered 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 . . . was filled by similarly qualified applicants outside the protected class.” Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Mgmt., Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th Cir. 2004) (en banc).

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Jason Zuckerman, Principal of Zuckerman Law, litigates whistleblower retaliation, qui tam, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. He is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015 and selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® and in SuperLawyers.