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University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar  (12-484) 

ISSUE: Standard of proof in Title VII retaliation cases 

Certiorari granted January 18, 2013 

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Nassar was a faculty member at the University. After leaving this position, he claimed that the University retaliated against him for writing a letter alleging discrimination and harassment based on race and religion. A jury found that the University retaliated against Nassar in violation of Title VII by preventing him from obtaining a position at a University-affiliated hospital after he resigned from the University. The 5th Circuit affirmed. Although the University objected to the jury being instructed on a mixed-motive theory of retaliation, rather than a but-for theory, the 5th Circuit found no error in the instruction.

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the 5th Circuit judgment.

Case below: Nassar v. Univ of Texas Southwestern Med Ctr (5th Cir 03/08/2012); Petition for rehearing en banc denied (9-6) (5th Cir 07/19/2012) 
Official docket sheet 
Certiorari granted: January 18, 2013. 
Oral argument:  To be scheduled.  

Questions presented in petition for certiorari:   

In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 258, 268-69 (1989), a plurality of this Court held that the discrimination provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ß 2000e-2(a), requires a plaintiff to prove only that discrimination was "a motivating factor" for an adverse employment action. In contrast, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 179-80 (2009), held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Pub. L. 90-202, 81 Stat. 602, requires proof that age was "the but-for cause" of an adverse employment action, such that a defendant is not liable if it would have taken the same action for other, nondiscriminatory reasons. The courts of appeals have since divided 3- 2 on whether Gross or Price Waterhouse establishes the general rule for other federal employment statutes, such as Title VIIís retaliation provision, that do not specifically authorize mixed-motive claims. 

The question presented is: 

Whether Title VII's retaliation provision and similarly worded statutes require a plaintiff to prove but-for causation (i.e., that an employer would not have taken an adverse employment action but for an improper motive), or instead require only proof that the employer had a mixed motive (i.e., that an improper motive was one of multiple reasons for the employment action). 


Certiorari Documents: 



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