A plaintiff claimed his employer discriminated against him because of his non-Japanese origin and retaliated against him when he complained about the discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that determination. Schirle v. Sokudo USA, L.L.C., et al., No. 11-10788 (5th Cir. July 31, 2012), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/11/11-10788.0.wpd.pdf.
To survive a motion for summary judgment on a discrimination claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he: (1) is a member of a protected group; (2) was qualified for the position at issue; (3) was discharged or suffered some adverse employment action; and (4) was replaced by someone outside his protected group. Here, the plaintiff showed that he was stripped of certain sales responsibilities. The Court held that this diminishment of material responsibilities satisfied the adverse action requirement. The employer offered no legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for assigning the plaintiff’s responsibilities to a “Japanese” employee, so summary judgment was inappropriate.
To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must show a causal connection between the plaintiff’s complaint of discrimination and an adverse employment action. The plaintiff showed that he complained specifically of racial/national origin discrimination and that he was stripped of his sales responsibilities just a month later. The Court found this close timing satisfied the causal connection requirement and that summary judgment on this claim was inappropriate.
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