7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment in Reverse Discrimination Failure-To-Promote Case

On June 12, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Title VII reverse discrimination failure-to-promote claims.  Garofalo and Peers v. Village of Hazel Crest, Nos. 12-1668 & 12-1681 (7th Cir.) June 12, 2014.  The 7th Circuit reiterated its simplified summary judgment standard for employment discrimination claims--whether a reasonable jury could find prohibited discrimination.  Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff can survive summary judgment by producing either circumstantial or direct evidence that creates a triable issue on whether discrimination motivated the adverse employment action.  To establish a Title VII failure-to-promote claim under the indirect method, a plaintiff must offer evidence that: (1) he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) he or she was qualified for the position sought; (3) he or she was rejected for the position; and (4) the employer promoted someone outside of the protected class who was not better qualified.  However, in a case alleging reverse discrimination, a plaintiff must also show background circumstances suggesting that the employer discriminates against the majority. 

If the employer articulates legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for the decision not to promote, the plaintiff must prove that the reasons were pretext for discrimination.  A plaintiff establishes pretext with evidence that the employer's non-discriminatory reason was dishonest, and the employer's true reason was motivated by a discriminatory intent.  In Garofalo, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment because the plaintiffs failed to raise an issue of fact as to each of the proffered reasons.