Dismissal of racial discrimination claim is upheld in Court of Appeals
Recardo Clemons sued his employer, B.K. Teachout Investigations, arguing that his termination was motivated by racial animus. The lower court dismissed his claim and the Court of Appeals re-stated his proof requirements. To prevail in a case of illegal discrimination in Michigan, the Plaintiff was required to show that he belonged to a protected class, that he suffered an adverse employment action, that he was qualified for his position, and that he was discharged under circumstances that created an inference of illegal discrimination.
These proofs shift the burden to the employer who must then articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. If the Defendant provides such an explanation, the burden shifts back to the employee, in Michigan, to establish that the Defendant's explanation was "pretextual" (that is, that it had no basis in fact).Unlike many states, Michigan judges have actually adopted a "pretext plus" standard of the employee; even though the circumstances have already created an inference of illegal discrimination, the employee must "establish a reasonable basis for inferring racial animus as a motivating factor." The Court held that Clemons did not create a factual issue with regard to his discrimination claim; although the Court acknowledged there were factual questions unresolved by the parties' claims, the judges ruled that the unresolved issues did not involve the employer's right to discipline Clemons or a showing of discriminatory motivation.