Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Third District: Employment Discrimination Claim Fails Due To Lack of Evidence Regarding Similarly Situated Employees

In Valenzuela v. GlobeGround North America, LLC (3D07-1742), the Third District reviewed an employment discrimination case. After stating that Florida courts look to federal law when reviewing a claim for employment discrimination the court stated as follows:

Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff must first establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, a prima facie case of discrimination. If successful, this raises a presumption of discrimination against the defendant...If a prima facie showing is made, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer to offer a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason” for the adverse employment action. If the employer meets its burden, the presumption of discrimination disappears and the employee must prove that the employer’s legitimate reasons for dismissal were a pretext for discrimination...In order to establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment based on gender discrimination, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the employee is a member of a protected class; (2) the employee was qualified for her position; (3) the employee suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees outside the employee’s protected class were treated more favorably.


“In determining whether employees are similarly situated for purposes of establishing a prima facie case, it is necessary to consider whether the employees are involved in or accused of the same or similar conduct and are disciplined in different ways.”...The employee must show that she and the employees outside her protected class are similarly situated “in all relevant respects.”...Thus, “the quantity and quality of the comparator’s misconduct [must] be nearly identical to prevent courts from second-guessing employers’ reasonable decisions and confusing apples with oranges.”

Similarly situated employees “must have reported to the same supervisor as the plaintiff, must have been subject to the same standards governing performance evaluation and discipline, and must have engaged in conduct similar to the plaintiff’s, without such differentiating conduct that would distinguish their conduct or the appropriate discipline for it.”


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