September 06, 2018

The shifting burdens of going forward in cases alleging unlawful discrimination


The shifting burdens of going forward in cases alleging unlawful discrimination
Haughton v Town of Cromwell, Cromwell Police Department, USCA, Second Circuit, Docket 17-2412-cv [2018]

Robert Haughton, a Town of Cromwell, Connecticut, police officer, alleged that the Town refused to assign to the position of Detective because of racial or ethnic discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

While it is unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," the Circuit Court explained that an aggrieved employee is required to demonstrate a prima facie case of disparate treatment, at which point the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate that the employment decision was made for 'legitimate, nondiscriminatory' reasons."

Further, said the court, if the employer meets this burden, the plaintiff must then “offer evidence sufficient to support a reasonable inference that . . . the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff.”

In this instance the court assumed, without deciding, that Haughton met his prima facie burden. However, the Circuit Court held that the Town met its burden in demonstrating a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its assignment decision and Haughton failed to demonstrate that reasons offered by the Town in support of its decision "was merely pretext."

Haughton failed to identify admissible evidence that would permit a jury to find that the Town acted with discriminatory intent when it chose to promote another officer instead of Haughton to Detective and employers are entitled to set their own legitimate, nondiscriminatory requirements for open positions.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


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