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Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins

United States Supreme Court
490 U.S. 228 (1989)


Facts

Ann Hopkins (plaintiff) was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse (defendant). The partners in Hopkins’s office proposed Hopkins for partnership. Hopkins was the only woman out of 88 employees proposed for partnership that year. Pursuant to Price Waterhouse’s procedures, partners were required to submit comments on each candidate for partnership. The partners in Hopkins’s office prepared a statement highlighting her success as a senior manager and praising her character. However, some of the comments about Hopkins noted her poor interpersonal skills, observed that she was masculine, objected to her use of profanity because she was female, and told her that she was more likely to become partner if she acted more feminine. Ultimately, Price Waterhouse placed Hopkins’s candidacy on hold. The next year, the partners in Hopkins’s office did not re-propose Hopkins for partnership. Hopkins sued Price Waterhouse for gender-based discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The district court found that, in light of Hopkins’s interpersonal skills, Hopkins would not necessarily have made partner even if her gender had not been a factor. The district court did find, however, that Price Waterhouse discriminated on the basis of sex by relying on the partners’ gender-based stereotyping. To avoid liability under Title VII, Price Waterhouse had to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that the same decision would have been made absent the discrimination. The district court found that Price Waterhouse failed to meet this burden. The court of appeals affirmed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

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Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

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Dissent (Kennedy, J.)

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