St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks

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St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 20, 1993
Decided June 25, 1993
Full case name St. Mary's Honor Center, et al. v. Melvin Hicks
Citations 509 U.S. 502 (more)
113 S. Ct. 2742; 125 L. Ed. 2d 407; 61 U.S.L.W. 4782; 62 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 96; 61 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P42,322; 93 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4747; 93 Daily Journal DAR 8057; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 553
Prior history 970 F.2d 487 (reversed and remanded)
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, and Thomas
Dissent Souter, joined by White, Blackmun, and Stevens
Laws applied
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993) was a case before the United States Supreme Court.


A black employee of a halfway house operated by the Missouri department of corrections and human resources brought, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, an action under 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USCS 2000e-2(a)(1)) alleging that the halfway house had violated 703(a)(1) by demoting and then discharging the employee because of his race.

Procedural history[edit]

The District Court, acting as trier of fact in a full bench trial,

(1) found that (a) the employee had established a prima facie case of racial discrimination, and (b) the reasons that the employer gave for the demotion and discharge were not the real reasons for the demotion and discharge, but
(2) ruled for the employer on the basis that the employee had failed to carry his ultimate burden of proving that his race was the determining factor in the employer's allegedly discriminatory actions (756 F Supp 1244).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, expressing the view that, once the employee had proved all of the employer's proffered reasons for the adverse employment actions to be pretextual, the employee was entitled to judgment as a matter of law (970 F2d 487).

Opinion of the court[edit]

Reversed and remanded. Justice Scalia held that the District Court's rejection of the employer's asserted reasons for its actions did not mandate a finding for the employee, because

(1) under Rule 301 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, a presumption did not shift the burden of proof;
(2) the Supreme Court had repeatedly stated that a Title VII plaintiff at all times bore the ultimate burden of persuasion;
(3) the Supreme Court had no authority to impose liability upon an employer for alleged discriminatory employment practices, unless an appropriate factfinder determined, according to proper procedures, that the employer had unlawfully discriminated;
(4) a holding that a finding for the employee as a matter of law was not mandated did not give special favor to employers whose evidence rebutting charges of racial discrimination was disbelieved;
(5) that an employer's proffered reason was unpersuasive, or even obviously contrived, did not necessarily establish that an employee's proffered reason of race was correct; and
(6) courts should not (a) treat discrimination differently from other ultimate questions of fact, or (b) make ultimate factual determinations on the basis of legal rules which were devised to govern the basic allocation of burdens and order of presentation of proof.


Justice Souter dissented, arguing that in Title VII employment discrimination cases, proof of a prima facie case not only raised an inference of discrimination, but also, in the absence of further evidence, created a mandatory presumption in favor of the plaintiff.

See also[edit]

  • Text of St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia