In employment discrimination cases, employees often seek to prove their claims by presenting indirect evidence of discrimination. Employees will seek to present evidence that they were treated differently than similarly situated employees outside of their protected class. On March 21, 2019, the Eleventh Circuit adopted a new test for analyzing these “comparators” by issuing its decision in Lewis v. City of Union City, Ga.. In doing so, the Court rejected its previous standards for analyzing comparators. Before Lewis, courts in the Eleventh Circuit evaluated “similarly situated” comparators under either the “nearly identical” or “same or similar” standard, and sometimes even used both standards simultaneously. The fact that two standards had emerged, and at times, were even used together, without any clear guidance on their proper use, caused the Court to call the entire situation “a mess.” Accordingly, in an effort to clean up and clarify the proper standard for comparator evidence, a full panel of the Court took on Lewis so that it could address whether “similarly situated” should be interpreted as “same or similar,” “nearly identical,” or something else. Ultimately, the Court decided to depart from its previous standards, and went with something else. Now, in order to prove intentional discrimination by indirect evidence, a plaintiff must show that employees “similarly situated in all material aspects” received preferential treatment. The Court also reiterated that this burden remains with the plaintiff as part of plaintiff’s prima facie case. So, what was the case about, and what does it mean for employers?
After the announcement of a new policy requiring all police officers to carry Tasers and receive a five-second shock, Jacqueline Lewis, an African-American detective with the Union City Police Department in Union City, Georgia, was scheduled to receive such training. She had also been scheduled to receive pepper spray training. But, before receiving either of these, Ms. Lewis submitted a doctor’s note Continue reading