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.