What was the McDonnell Douglas case about?

In McDonnell Douglas v. Green (1973) a large manufacturing company (McDonnell Douglas) laid off much of its workforce, including Percy Green, an African American civil rights activist. During the layoff period, Green had protested what he believed to be discriminatory hiring practices of his employer by helping to engage in a stall-in, where protestors would take their cars and then stall them on the road leading into the employer’s business.

McDonnell Douglas then began a rehiring of many workers. Green applied for reinstatement but was denied. He sued, alleging that McDonnell Douglas failed to rehire him because of his civil rights activism and his race. The lower courts rejected his claim. However, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the lower courts failed to give him a chance to prove that the company’s reasons for not rehiring him participation in illegal acts of disruption were pretextual or false. The importance of the case is the allocation of proof that the Court established for Title VII plaintiffs and defendants.