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Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa

United States Supreme Court
539 U.S. 90, 123 S.Ct. 2148 (2003)



Catharina Costa (plaintiff) worked for Desert Palace, Inc. (Desert Palace) (defendant) in its warehouse as a heavy-equipment operator. Costa was the only woman in that position. Costa had a history of conflict with her managers and co-workers that had resulted in various disciplinary measures against her. Costa was fired after she was involved in a physical fight with another employee, Herbert Gerber. Gerber, who had no disciplinary record, received a weeklong suspension. Costa sued Desert Palace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of her sex. At trial, Costa offered evidence that she had been treated less favorably than male employees at Desert Palace and subjected to gender-based slurs by supervisors. The district court submitted the case to a jury, which found in Costa’s favor and awarded her back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. The court of appeals affirmed. Desert Palace petitioned for review by the United States Supreme Court, arguing Costa was required (and failed) to show direct evidence of discrimination.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

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