Employment Law Update - Employment Discrimination Plaintiffs Need Not Prove Replacement by Someone Outside Protected Class
An employment discrimination plaintiff makes a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that (1) she was within a statutorily protected class, (2) she was discharged by the defendant, (3) she was doing satisfactory work, and (4) after her discharge, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants with qualifications similar to the plaintiff.
For years, Washington courts have held that employment discrimination plaintiffs must prove that they were replaced by someone outside of their protected class--the replacement element. For example, if the employment discrimination plaintiff was female, she had to prove she was replaced by a man; if the employment discrimination plaintiff was over 40-years of age, he or she had to prove they were replaced by someone under 40-years of age. This often created often monumental burden for employment discrimination plaintiffs.
The Washington State Supreme Court, in a decision published today (Mikkelsen v. Public Util. Dist. No. 1, 2017 Wash. LEXIS 985 (10.19.2017), held that the replacement element is not required to prove a prima facie case of employment discrimination. This decision will make it easier for employment discrimination plaintiffs to prosecute their claims and harder for employers to defeat these claims.
Contact Mark D. Walters