referred to an African-American woman as "Sweet Georgia Brown," and had offered to pay her $ 500 to change her name. Id. at 24-25. Lazarus also sent e-mail messages to (1) the entire Journal staff containing sexual innuendo referring to male genitalia; (2) Strauss entitled "Alice in UNIX Land;" and (3) a Journal employee, who forwarded them to Strauss, containing sexually explicit messages.
II. The 1993 Opinion
On July 31, 1992, Microsoft moved for partial summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(b), with respect to Strauss's Title VII and state law claims. On February 22, 1993, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Microsoft's motion. See Strauss v. Microsoft Corp., 814 F. Supp. 1186 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) (the "1993 Opinion"). In the Opinion, after analyzing the burdens of production and proof used in employment discrimination cases pursuant to McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-03, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973), the Court considered whether (1) Strauss had established a prima facie case, thereby creating a presumption of discrimination; (2) Microsoft had articulated a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for not promoting the plaintiff in order to rebut the presumption of discrimination; and (3) plaintiff had satisfied her burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the proffered reasons were merely pretextual and not the true reasons for the failure to promote. Id. at 1191-94.
First, the Court found that Strauss demonstrated that she was qualified to be a technical editor, and that the Journal had attempted to fill the position after she was rejected. As a result, the Court concluded that Strauss had established a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 1192-93. Second, as Microsoft had produced evidence that it did not promote Strauss to the technical editor position because she was not qualified, the Court found that Microsoft had satisfied its burden of articulating a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for not promoting Strauss. Id. at 1193. Third, the Court concluded that Strauss had presented evidence "from which a reasonable jury could determine that Microsoft's proffered reason for not promoting her [was] pretextual." Id. at 1193-94. Accordingly, Microsoft's motion for partial summary judgment was denied.
Subsequently, on June 25, 1993, the Supreme Court decided St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 113 S. Ct. at 2742 ("Hicks"), which re-examined a plaintiff's burden of proof in employment discrimination cases. Microsoft now renews its motion, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(b), for partial summary judgment on the Title VII and state law claims.
Microsoft contends that, under Hicks, in order to avoid summary judgment, Strauss must set forth admissible evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that, not only is Microsoft's evidence of a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason pretextual, but also that its decision was motivated by an intention to discriminate. According to Microsoft, as the 1993 Opinion did not hold that there was sufficient evidence to permit a finding that Microsoft's true reason was an intent to discriminate, it is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.
I. The Hicks Action
A. Opinions of the Courts Below
Respondent Melvin Hicks ("Hicks"), a black male, was hired as a correctional officer at St. Mary's Honor Center ("St. Mary's") in August 1978, and was promoted to the position of shift commander in February 1980. Subsequently, beginning in March 1984, Hicks became the subject of repeated disciplinary actions, eventually resulting in his demotion and discharge. As a result, Hicks sued for race discrimination in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleging violations of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983.
After a full bench trial, the district court found in favor of the defendants. Hicks v. St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 756 F. Supp. 1244 (E.D. Mo. 1991), rev'd, 970 F.2d 487 (8th Cir. 1992), rev'd, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, U.S. , 113 S. Ct. 2742 (1993). Specifically, the district court found that Hicks had failed to meet his ultimate burden of proving that his race was the determining factor in the decision to demote and dismiss him. Id. at 1251. According to the Court, "although plaintiff has proven the existence of a crusade to terminate him, he has not proven that the crusade was racially rather than personally motivated." Id. at 1252. The Court based this conclusion, inter alia, on the fact that (1) the disciplinary review board that recommended demoting Hicks consisted of two black and two white individuals; (2) Hicks' black subordinates were not disciplined; and (3) the number of black employees at St. Mary's remained constant after Hicks' employment was terminated. Id. at 1252.
In a decision dated July 23, 1992, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded the case. See Hicks v. St. Mary's Honor Ctr., 970 F.2d 487 (8th Cir. 1992), rev'd, 125 L. Ed. 2d 407, U.S. , 113 S. Ct. 2742 (1993). According to the Circuit Court:
Once plaintiff proved all of defendants' proffered reasons for the adverse employment actions to be pretextual, plaintiff was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Because all of defendants' proffered reasons were discredited, defendants were in a position of having offered no legitimate reason for their actions. In other words, defendants were in no better position than if they had remained silent, offering no rebuttal to an established inference that they had unlawfully discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race.
Id. at 492. As the district court found that Hicks had satisfied his burden of proving pretext, the Circuit Court held that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 493.
B. The Supreme Court Opinion
The Supreme Court granted certiorari, see St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 122 L. Ed. 2d 111, U.S. , 113 S. Ct. 954 (1993), to determine whether a finding of pretext mandates judgment for a plaintiff in the absence of a finding of intentional discrimination. The Court (by Scalia, J.) agreed with the Circuit Court that "the factfinder's disbelief of the reasons put forward by the defendant (particularly if disbelief is accompanied by a suspicion of mendacity) may, together with the elements of the prima facie case, suffice to show intentional discrimination." St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 113 S. Ct. at 2749. However, the Hicks Court rejected the Eighth Circuit's reasoning that a finding of pretext mandates a finding of discrimination. According to the Court, while "rejection of the defendant's proffered reasons will permit the trier of fact to infer the ultimate fact of intentional discrimination," such a rejection does not compel judgment for the plaintiff. Id. (emphasis in original).
The Court stated that the Eighth Circuit's finding "ignores our repeated admonition that the Title VII plaintiff at all times bears the 'ultimate burden of persuasion.'" Id. While the Court recognized that it could establish certain orders of proof as set forth in McDonnell Douglas, it stated that "nothing in law would permit us to substitute for the required finding that the employer's action was the product of unlawful discrimination, the much different (and much lesser) finding that the employer's explanation of its action was not believable." Id. at 2751. The Court concluded that:
Title VII does not award damages against employers who cannot prove a nondiscriminatory reason for adverse employment action, but only against employers who are proven to have taken adverse employment action by reason of (in the context of the present case) race. That the employer's proffered reason is unpersuasive, or even obviously contrived, does not necessarily establish that the plaintiff's proffered reason of race is correct. That remains a question for the factfinder.