Sellsted v. Washington Mutual Savings Bank

In Sellsted v. Washington Mutual Savings Bank, 69 Wn. App. 852, 851 P.2d 716, review denied, 122 Wn.2d 1018, 863 P.2d 1352 (1993), the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the trial court's summary judgment for the defendant because, once a plaintiff in a discrimination case presents evidence of a prima facie case and the employer proffers nondiscriminatory reasons for the discharge, the plaintiff may survive summary judgment by providing evidence that the employer's reasons are unworthy of belief or are otherwise a pretext for a discriminatory purpose; to meet this burden, the plaintiff "is not required to produce evidence beyond that already offered to establish a prima facie case." Sellsted, 69 Wn. App. at 859-60. The court determined the plaintiff's "evidence establishing a prima facie case and his evidence of pretext together were sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to the reason for his discharge." Sellsted, 69 Wn. App. at 861. As the court explained, where "the record contains 'reasonable but competing inferences of . . . discrimination' because the employer's reasons have been called into question both by the conflicts among the reasons themselves and by evidence rebutting their accuracy or believability, 'it is the jury's task to choose between such inferences.'" Sellsted, 69 Wn. App. at 862-63 (quoting Carle v. McChord Credit Union, 65 Wn. App. 93, 102, 827 P.2d 1070 (1992)). "If the factfinder determines that the proffered reasons. . . are not credible, the presumption of an impermissible consideration . . . would permit the conclusion that age was a determining factor." Sellsted, 69 Wn. App. at 864.