On March 30, 2022, Brian Rochel presented on a panel entitled “McDonnell Douglas and the Direct Method – A New Normal on the Horizon?” The presentation focused on the McDonnell Douglas (or indirect) burden shifting method for proving discrimination and retaliation claims. The Minnesota Supreme Court is currently deciding whether Minnesota courts will continue applying the McDonnell Douglas framework. In Hanson v. DNR, the Supreme Court was asked to abolish use of the McDonnell Douglas framework because it has become problematic over the several decades it has developed.
Hanson, along with amici curiae Minnesota NELA and ELA-UM, argued that McDonnell Douglas has been misused on Rule 56 and resulted in dismissing employment claims that should appropriately be tried to a jury.
In the March 30 CLE, Brian laid out the arguments made by the employee in Hanson, and the panelists discussed the pros and cons of McDonnell Douglas in employment litigation–as well as what employment litigation may look like in the absence of the familiar framework.
The panel also discussed Friend v. Gopher Company, Inc., a Minnesota Court of Appeals case holding that McDonnell Douglas is not required to be applied in every case. Brian argued that means that regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision in Hanson v. DNR, employees may still choose to forego McDonnell Douglas in favor of the “direct method” to prove cases at trial and present evidence on summary judgment.
A decision is expected in Hanson v. DNR soon, check back for more updates. If you have questions about Minnesota employment law, proving claims of discrimination or retaliation, or related topics, please contact us.