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Civil Rights Cases



The following are some of the significant cases in this area. They are offered as a start to understanding the issues, and are not intended as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from DOI's Solicitor's Office or private counsel. These summaries are intended neither as a legal analysis regarding specific matters, nor as a complete review of the topic.

  1. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), is the first case to set out the current test for proving intentional discrimination through indirect evidence. The plaintiff must establish an inference of discrimination by showing that she is a member of a protected group; he applied and was qualified for a job that was open; he was rejected; and the job remained vacant while the employer continued to seek other similarly qualified persons or the employer filled the job with a majority candidate. If the job did not remain open, the plaintiff must show other evidence of discrimination. If this prima facie case is proven by the plaintiff, the employer may then offer evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatroy reason for its action. The plaintiff may then counter with evidence that the purported legitimate reason is actually a pretext for discrimination.
  1. Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244 S.Ct. 1483 (1994). Decided that compensatory and punitive damages under section 102 of the Civil Rights Act may not be awarded for conduct which occurred before November 21, 1991, even if that conduct was previously unlawful under Title VII.
  1. Robinson v. Shell Oil Co.,519 U.S. 337, 117 S.Ct. 843 (1997). Held that an adverse employment reference was sufficiently important to be actionable under Section 704(a)'s prohibition on retaliation.
  1. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989); and Furnco Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567 (1978); Texas Dept of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248 (1981); U..S. Postal Service Board of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711 (1983); St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993). In these cases, the Supreme Court set forth a nonexclusive model for resolving claims of intentional discrimination where there is not direct evidence of discriminatory intent even when no longer a current employee
  1. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 91 S.Ct. 849 (1971). The Court held that employment practices which cause a disproportionately adverse impact on the members of a group protected by Title VII are unlawful unless they are job related. There is protection against over discrimination as well as practices that are fair in form but discriminatory in operation.
  1. Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.s. 642, 1109 S.Ct. 2115 (1989). The Court tightened the standards for proofs of disparate impact. The plaintiff has the burden of identifying the particular practice that caused the disparate impact and proving the causal relationship.