American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - Carvalho-Grevious v. Delaware State University - Third Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
March 27, 2017
  Carvalho-Grevious v. Delaware State University - Third Circuit
Headline: In Title VII Retaliation Claim, Plaintiff Need Only to Proffer Evidence Sufficient to Raise Inference that Engagement in Protected Activity was Likely Reason, Not But-For Reason

Areas of Law: Employment Discrimination

Brief Summary: In this Title VII retaliation suit, the Third Circuit addressed the question of whether a plaintiff asserting a Title VII relation claim must establish but-for causation as part of her prima facie case. The Third Circuit holds that, at the prima facie stage, a plaintiff need only to proffer evidence sufficient to raise the inference that her engagement in a protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse employment action, not the but-for reason.

Extended Summary: In this Title VII retaliation claim, Carvalho-Grevious appealed from an order of summary judgment granted in favor of her former employer, Delaware State University (DSU). The employee, a professor, alleged that by retaliating against her for complaining about discriminatory employment practices based on race and gender, DSU violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On May 3, 2011, the employee was informed that she would be dismissed as chairperson after previously filing multiple complaints of discriminatory conduct by her employer. Furthermore, on June 21, 2011 DSU revoked her renewable contract and issued her a terminal contract. Finally, on June 22, 2012, when the terminal contract expired, DSU elected not to renew the contract. Accordingly, the employee filed suit in District Court. At this time, DSU filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted by the District Court on the basis that when a plaintiff asserts a Title VII retaliation claim, she must prove that the employer's unlawful retaliation was the but-for cause of the adverse employment action. On appeal, the Third Circuit was tasked with answering the question of whether the standard on which the District Court based its grant of summary judgment was the proper standard.

More specifically, the question before the court was: what must a plaintiff provide as part of her prima facie case of retaliation to survive a motion for summary judgment in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Nassar, which held that Title VII retaliation claims must be proven according to traditional principles of but-for causation? In Nassar, the Supreme Court held that, in a retaliation claim, a plaintiff's ultimate burden is to prove that retaliatory animus was the but-for cause of the adverse employment action. However, as decided by the Third Circuit in this case, that burden differs at the prima face stage of the case. Consistent with overwhelming precedent, a plaintiff alleging retaliation has a lesser causal burden at the prima facie stage. Accordingly, the proper standard at the prima facie stage is that the plaintiff must produce evidence sufficient to raise the inference that her protected activity was the likely reason for the adverse employment action. Thus, Nassar does not alter the plaintiff's burden at the prima facie stage; proving but-for causation as part of her ultimate burden of persuasion comes later, and not at the motion-to-dismiss stage.

The full opinion is available at http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/153521p.pdf

Panel: Ambro, Smith, Fisher, Circuit Judges (Judge Smith became Chief Judge on Oct. 1, 2016)

Argument Date: September 27, 2016

Date of Issued Opinion: March 21, 2017

Docket Number: 15-3521

Decided: March 21, 2017

Case Alert Author: David A. Rosenfeld

Counsel: Christine E. Burke, Ari R. Karpf, Counsel for Appellant; Gerard M. Clodomir, James D. Taylor Jr., Counsel for Appellees

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge Fisher

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Prof. Susan L. DeJarnatt

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 03/27/2017 01:40 PM     3rd Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top