In late August, the Seventh Circuit issued an important opinion in Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises. Every practitioner and scholar in the field of employment discrimination law should read this case.
In Ortiz, the trial court judge granted summary judgment in the employer’s favor using the available frameworks for evaluating discrimination cases. The appellate court opinion is important because it explicitly starts to break down the formalistic frameworks that control how federal courts often evaluate discrimination cases. Under the current approach to discrimination law, courts run the facts of cases through court-created frameworks. Once the court applies the frameworks, the resulting answer determines whether the case proceeds or not.
Unfortunately, the frameworks do not do a good job of determining whether discrimination occurred. The Ortiz opinion explicitly recognizes this problem and builds on other Seventh Circuit cases that have expressed skepticism about the frameworks. This is a significant step in bringing more rationality to discrimination jurisprudence. I will discuss Ortiz in more detail in future posts. For now, I just want to encourage people to read this important new case.