On July 22, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in a Title VII race discrimination failure-to-hire case. Matthews v. Waukesha County, No. 13-1839 (7-22-2014). In order to establish a discriminatory failure-to-hire claim, the employee must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she applied and was qualified for the position; (3) she was rejected for the position; and (4) the employer filled the position with someone not in her protected class. This shifts the burden to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the hiring decision. Once the employer states a reason, the burden shifts to the employee to prove the employer’s stated reason is pretext for discrimination. In Matthews, the plaintiff established a prima facie case of discrimination, but failed to offer enough evidence of pretext to survive summary judgment. The incontrovertible fact that the decision-makers in the hiring process did not know the race of the applicants was dispositive. The plaintiff’s contention, that the decision-makers inferred the race of certain applicants from their names, was rejected by the 7th Circuit as one of those evidentiary “flights of fancy.”
The 7th Circuit also rejected the plaintiff’s “cat’s paw” theory, that a non-decision-maker with a discriminatory animus affected the adverse employment decision by influencing the decision-maker. There was no evidence that the non-decision-maker presented any information to the decision-maker that could have affected his decision. Summary judgment was also affirmed on the plaintiff’s Section 1981 and Section 1983 claims, for the same reasons.