This post continues our discussion of Ortiz. In Ortiz, the Seventh Circuit worried that the direct and indirect frameworks distract trial court judges away from the real substantive issue in a disparate treatment case: whether a protected trait played a role in a negative employment action.
Ortiz recognizes that the core question of discrimination law had been lost in the morass of frameworks the courts created to evaluate discrimination cases. The opinion now requires judges in the Seventh Circuit to focus on a more straightforward approach to discrimination cases. Looking at the evidence as whole could a reasonable jury find that the worker’s protected trait played a negative role in the challenged employment decision? If the answer to this question is yes, a jury should determine whether discrimination occurred. If the answer is no, then summary judgment is appropriate.
The Ortiz case overrules 10 Seventh Circuit cases to the extent that those cases segregated facts into the direct and indirect tests and treated those tests as if they established the elements of a discrimination claim.