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PRIMA-FACIE, EVIDENCE, CASE

Latin for "at first view."

Evidence that is sufficient to raise a presumption of fact or to establish the fact in question unless rebutted.

A prima-facie case is a lawsuit that alleges facts adequate to prove the underlying conduct supporting the cause of action and thereby prevail. Below's an example dealing with employment discrimination claims.

A plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII by establishing that (1) he or she belongs to a racial minority; (2) he or she applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (3) he or she was rejected for the position despite his or her qualifications; and (4) the position remained open after his or her rejection and the employer continued to seek applications from other people with similar qualifications to the plaintiff. McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). In Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981), the Supreme Court stated that"[t]he burden of establishing a prima facie case of disparate treatment is not onerous."

After the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the plaintiff's rejection. Id. If the employer sustains the burden, the plaintiff then has the opportunity to present evidence showing that the employer's stated reason for the rejection was merely pretextual. Id.; see also McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 807; Lindahl, 930 F.2d at 1437 ("The defendant's articulation of a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason serves . . . to shift the burden back to the plaintiff to raise a genuine factual question as to whether the proffered reason is pretextual.") (quoting Lowe, 775 F.2d at 1008).

The third step does not require that a plaintiff prove that "he was rejected because of his protected status." The plaintiff must only show in step three that "despite his qualifications, he was rejected." McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. The two standards are quite different. The McDonnell Douglas test merely requires that a plaintiff raise an inference of disparate treatment to establish a prima facie case, not actual proof of such treatment.

Under McDonnell Douglas, to establish his prima facie case, the plaintiff need not prove that discrimination was the motivating factor in his dismissal. All he must do is raise an inference that such misconduct occurred.

A plaintiff can also establish a prima facie case by "offering evidence adequate to create an inference that an employment decision was based on a discriminatory criteria illegal under [Title VII]." Mitchell v. Office of the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools, 805 F.2d 844, 846 (9th Cir. 1986) (quoting Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 358 (1977)); see Lowe v. City of Monrovia, 775 F.2d 998, 1006 (9th Cir. 1985) (plaintiff can establish prima facie case of disparate treatment without satisfying McDonnell Douglas test if he or she provides evidence suggesting rejection was based on discriminatory criteria), amended, 784 F.2d 1407 (1986). A plaintiff who provides such evidence for his or her prima facie case may be able to survive summary judgment on this evidence alone. Lowe, 775 F.2d at 1008.

Although "the mere existence of a prima facie case, based on the minimum evidence necessary to raise a McDonnell Douglas presumption, does not preclude summary judgment," Wallis v. J.R. Simplot Co., 26 F.3d 885, 890 (9th Cir. 1994), "the plaintiff [who has established a prima facie case] need produce very little evidence of discriminatory motive to raise a genuine issue of fact" as to pretext. Lindahl, 930 F.2d at 1437. In fact, any indication of discriminatory motive . . . may suffice to raise a question that can only be resolved by a factfinder. Once a prima facie case is established . . . summary judgment for the defendant will ordinarily not be appropriate on any ground relating to the merits because the crux of a Title VII dispute is the elusive factual question of intentional discrimination. Id. at 1438 (quoting Lowe, 775 F.2d at 1009) (citation omitted). Thus, burden at the summary judgment stage is not great.

The first blush; the first view or appearance of the business; as, the holder of a bill of exchange, indorsed in blank, is prima facie its owner.

Prima facie evidence of a fact, is in law sufficient to establish the fact, unless rebutted. For example, when buildings are fired by sparks emitted from a locomotive engine passing along the road, it is prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of those who have the charge of it.

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