Evaluation of the Legal Issues in Anderson vs Acme Printing

Evaluation of the Legal Issues in Anderson vs Acme Printing

Evaluation of the Legal Issues in Anderson vs Acme Printing

Introduction and Statement of the Issues

It is now settled that the resolution of Title VII claims in employment relationships are sustained through direct and indirect evidence. In this regard, direct evidence exists where there is substantial proof of the link between an employer’s act and prohibited discrimination. On the other hand, circumstantial evidence may be adduced through a two-step process, namely: 1) the establishment of a prima facie case (to establish a rebuttable presumption) through the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework and, 2) traditional approaches of proving employee discrimination contrary to the provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964, 1991.

Statement of Issues

In the case of Anderson vs Acme Printing, this evaluation seeks to use the two-step process for analysing indirect evidence to resolve the following three issues:

  1. Whether Acme Printing wrongfully terminated the plaintiff’s employment contract on the basis of sexual discrimination.
  2. Whether Acme printing wrongfully terminated the plaintiff’s contract on the basis of unlawful retaliation for her objection to unlawful harassment at work.
  3. Whether Anderson was unlawfully harassed on the basis on her sex while an employee of the defendant.


Wrongful Termination: Unlawful Discrimination on the Basis Of Sex. Ms. Anderson first claim is that she was unlawfully terminated on the basis of sex. In this regard, her claims must first be established on a prima facie basis, hence establishing a rebuttable presumption (Major 14). When all this have been established, the burden shifts to her employer to demonstrate legitimate cause for their termination of her services through a rebuttal (Sperino 258). As such, this section seeks to establish a prima facie case through the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. Subsequently, the plaintiff has to demonstrate that:

  1. Applicable Law

            The evidence must establish the following elements through direct or circumstantial evidence based on the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964. It is unlawful to discharge an individual from duty on the basis of their sex (Kirshenbaum 143). From the preceding, the guideline developed in McDonnell Douglas Corporation vs. Green 411 U.S. 792 is applied to sexual discrimination (Major (14). Foremost, i) that she belongs to a gender minority, ii) that she merited the requirements of the job, iii) that despite her qualifications, she was dismissed from her employment, and iv) that upon her dismissal, her position remained vacant as her employer sought other persons to fill it (Sperino 258). All these will form the basis upon which Acme Printers rebut the plaintiff’s prima facie case.

  • Application of the Facts to Relevant Law

            According to the existing evidence, Ms. Anderson is a sexual minority at Acme Printers on a numerical basis since there are more women in her place of work compared to men. Secondly, she qualified for the job going by Exhibit 1 (appointment letter) and specifically the last paragraph, which states that: “It is our belief that you can make a significant and positive contribution to our Company.” The aforementioned signifies employer belief in her ability to deliver on her job. Thirdly, Anderson was subsequently dismissed from her job despite his qualifications, which Acme initially believed in. Fourthly, her post remained vacant after her dismissal as the management of Acme looked for a suitable in-house or external replacement.

            The defendant may rebut her evidence on the four elements in the following manner. Foremost, that they acknowledge her qualifications for the job and stand by their statement in Exhibit 1 (in the preceding paragraph). However, her performance fell short going by the complaints from Paramount who are Acme’s significant clients. As a matter of fact, Acme notified her severally on her non-performance in the meeting held on January 6, 2017 (Exhibit 2). In this regard, they informed her that they were dissatisfied with her handing of the account. Subject to Exhibit 4, the management noted with concern that she was unable to perform at her job in the following respects:

  1. “Failure to schedule four appointments per month with new and prospective customers.”
  2. Lack of follow up with key customers.
  3. Lack of participation in sales prospect meetings; and,
  4. Failure to submit timely prospects list before Monday 8 a.m. every week in the appropriate manner among others.

            Similarly, the National Sales Director was concerned of her performance in a memo titled Exhibit 2. The aforesaid noted that during a call, her negative impact on the team’s performance raised some salient issues that are stated as follows:

  1. Failure to demonstrate expertise in the business.
  2. Failure to provide an amended format of weekly status updates as requested in weeks following the a request that Alice, the V-P of Paramount (a major account for Acme) made.
  3. Failure to demonstrate leadership role in READ meetings.

In light of the analysis above, based on facts and law, the defendant has demonstrated her non-performance as the legitimate grounds upon which their dismissal was based. Consequently, Anderson lacks a prima facie case of sexual discrimination on this issue. Subsequently, she must demonstrate that the defendant’s legitimate reasons for her dismissal were mere pretexts under the traditional methods of proof (Brodin 300).   The aforementioned is briefly considered in the subsequent part.

Under traditional methods of proof, there is no direct or circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that her Title VII rights had been violated on the basis of her sex. Despite the claims that she was constantly harassed at work and her fa, there is no evidence that her dismissal was based on sexual discrimination, but on performance (Brodin 292). Therefore, this claim does not stand for lack of both direct and circumstantial evidence to that effect.

Retaliation for Objecting to Sexual Harassment/Wrongful Termination

  1. Applicable Law. Anderson must prove that she was dismissed because of her confrontation against her manager for sexually harassing her consistently at work. In this regard, the Supreme Court settled in Desert Palace Inc. vs Costa 123 S. Ct. 2148 (2003) that direct evidence is not a pre-requisite in mixed-motive cases related to Title VII violations (Corbett 208).  In this regards, the guideline developed in McDonnell Douglas shows thatshe must demonstrate that she belongs to a gender minority, ii) that she merited the requirements of the job, iii) that despite her qualifications, she was dismissed from her employment, and iv) that upon her dismissal, her position remained vacant as her employer sought other persons to fill it (Sperino 258). These issues have been discussed at length in part (a) of the first issue and thus we shall not belabor it here.

      Under the ruling in Desert Palace Inc. vs Costa, an employee should be given an opportunity to demonstrate, through facts, that the reasons for her dismissal were illegitimate. In this regard, she must demonstrate that the motivating factor behind her dismissal was a result of her sex as opposed to her performance as stated. In this regard, s. 2000e-2(m) of the Civil Rights Act 1991 (as amended) provides that a plaintiff ought to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that her sex was the motivating factor for her dismissal from Acme (Corbett 208).  However, in Price Waterhouse vs Hopkins 490 U.S. 228 (1989), the Supreme Court found that the defendant’s rejection for promotion was based on both legitimate and illegitimate reviews (Green 992).  Notably, in this case, the plaintiff’s application for being considered as a partner was rejected based on performance reviews and gender stereotypes (Green 990-991). Consequently, the position in law is that if sex is a motivation or a part-motivation in disparate treatment at work, the defendant becomes liable for breach of Title VII labor related sex discrimination.  

  • Application of Law to Relevant Facts. Having analyzed the application of McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework in part (b) of the first issue, the plaintiff has successfully rebutted the prima facie evidence on each element that has been presented therein. Nonetheless, under s. 2000e-2(m) of the Civil Rights Act 1991, Anderson ought to demonstrate on a balance of probabilities that her sex was the motivating factor for dismissal from Acme. In the aforementioned record, evidence shows that she was consistently harassed at work by her boss Mr. Dolinko and on one occasion she stands up to him, but fails to report to Human Resources. Similarly, there are instances when her staff mate have made gross sexual remarks towards her.  Also, she argues that she was either assigned or transferred from duties in a discriminatory manner based on the following set of facts:
  • Generally, her accounts were transferred because of sex (see Part C par. 1).
  • “Dolinko reassigned these accounts to Henry, the outgoing Sales Manager at a higher commission-based compensation for servicing her former accounts (see Part C par. 1).
  • “Dolinko re-assigned Anderson’s accounts to his son Walter Dolinko for a higher compensation than what she previously received (see Part C par. 2).
  • That an influential employee of Paramount allegedly stated that he preferred to work with men; however, he had to get used to working with “little Mary” in reference to Anderson. She actually reported this to Acme, but no follow up was made (See Part D par. 3).

            This accusations raise fundamental concerns, but there is no evidence from the facts to prove her allegations on sex discrimination assignment, reassignment, and discharge from duties. Acme, on the other hand, will argue that their decisions to assign, reassign, and discharge her from duties were based on legitimate reasons. Accordingly, Dolinko alleges that reassigning her from the Paramount account was to alleviate pressure from her. Moreover, Alice, the Vice-President was dissatisfied with her delivery on the account as provided in (Exhibit 2). Under the memo, Garcia expressed Alice’s concerns including: her failure to demonstrate expertise, leadership, and formats for presentations on the account as the V-P had earlier requested. Subsequently, Garcia spoke to her on the need to improve her performance and communication to deliver on the account. Also, under Exhibit 3, when the Paramount account was reassigned to Henry she never raised any questions when Garcia gave her an opportunity to do so with regard to the reassignment. Importantly, the aforementioned occurred after Alice contributed to Acme’s failure to meet a Paramount’s business deadline.

            Against this background and my interpretation of s. 2000e-2(m) of the Civil Rights Act 1991, as well as Price Waterhouse and Desert Palace Inc., sex was a motivating factor for other decisions other than the decision to discharge, reassign, or assign her duties at Acme. This includes payment of higher wages to Henry and Walter (male staff) members for her former position.  In as much as such actions were illegitimate, the decision to reassign her from accounts were based on legitimate reasons such as her failure to meet deadlines, meet prospecting quotas, and failure to attend weekly meetings (Exhibit 4). Moreover, in Price Waterhouse, there was evidence that sexual stereotypes had been used as part of her performance review, which is not the case here.

Unlawful Harassment  

  1. Applicable Law. Sexual harassment is a violation of the prohibitions against discrimination under Title VII of Civil Rights Act, 1964. Specifically, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, and gender. In this regard, the Supreme Court has explained that this may include sexual harassment or the creation of a hostile environment for members of a protected class of persons to work. For instance, in Joseph Onacle vs. Sunflower Offshore 523 U.S. 75 (1998), it was held that Title VII protects individuals from sexual harassment because it is tantamount to discrimination. Moreover, in an earlier decision of the same court (Meritor Savings Bank, FSB vs. Vinson 477 U.S. 57, 66 (1986)), it was held that if a work environment is hostile for women, amount to sexual discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Act (Kirshenbaum 139-140). In this regard, the plaintiff should demonstrate either acts of sexual harassment or hostile work environment for them on the basis of their sex.
  2. Application of Law to Relevant Facts. There is evidence that Anderson was not only harassed on the basis of her sex, but that the working environment was also hostile. In the aforementioned regard, there was an ongoing sexual harassment from Mr. Dolinko and subsequent gross comments on her figure and other sexually suggestive references that have been made towards her (See Part B par. 1). In light of the ruling in Onacle and Meritor, sexual harassment and a hostile work environments for Anderson amounted to sexual discrimination. Moreover, her work environment was threatened when an influential employee at Paramount openly stated his preference for working with men, but had to settle for “Little Mary.”


A plaintiff will be awarded damages under the ruling in Onacle if they can demonstrate by plausible evidence that the employer’s conduct violated Title VII prohibitions.  As far as the first two issues are concerned, there is evidence that the conduct of Acme was motivated by legitimate reasons. However, on the issue of unlawful harassment, there is evidence that her sex dictated the constant sexual harassment and hostile working environment she was subjected to. As a result, she can recover damages on this claim.


On the basis of the evaluation using the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting framework, Anderson established a prima facie case on some, but not all the elements under the procedure on the first issue. On the other hand, the employer rebutted each claim through evidence. Similarly, using the mixed-motive framework in Da Costa, there is no evidence that her dismissal was based on retaliation for her refusal to accede to her bosses’ sexual demands.   

Works Cited

Brodin, Mark S. “The Standard of Causation in the Mixed-Motive Title VII Action: A Social Policy Perspective.” Columbia Law Review. vol 82, no. 2, 1982. www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1122276.pdf. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Corbett, William R. “McDonnell Douglas, 1973-2003: May You Rest in Peace.” U. Pa. J. Lab. & Emp. L. vol 6, 2003. www.digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1037&context=faculty_scholarship. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Kirshenbaum, Andrea Meryl. “Because of… sex: Rethinking the protections afforded under Title VII in the post-Oncale world.” Alb. L. Rev. vol 69, 2005. www.albanylawreview.org/Articles/Vol69_1/69.1.0139-Kirshenbaum%20(final2).pdf. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Major, Ruth I. “McDonnell Douglas: The Oft-Misunderstood Method of Proof.” Fed. Law, 2012. www.fedbar.org/Resources_1/Federal-Lawyer-Magazine/2012/May/Columns/Labor-Employment-Corner.aspx?FT=.pdf. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.

Sperino, Sandra F. “Beyond McDonnell Douglas.” Berkeley J. Emp. & Lab. L. vol 34, 2013. www.scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1462&context=bjell. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019.


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