O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U.S. 308, 3 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

tioner appealed. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that petitioner could establish a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas only if he could prove that (1) he was in the age group protected by the ADEA; (2) he was discharged or demoted; (3) at the time of his discharge or demotion, he was performing his job at a level that met his employer's legitimate expectations; and (4) following his discharge or demotion, he was replaced by someone of comparable qualifications outside the protected class. Since petitioner's replacement was 40 years old, the Court of Appeals concluded that the last element of the prima facie case had not been made out.1 56 F. 3d 542, 546 (1995). Finding that petitioner's claim could not survive a motion for summary judgment without benefit of the McDonnell Douglas presumption (i. e., "under the ordinary standards of proof used in civil cases," 56 F. 3d, at 548), the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of dismissal. We granted O'Connor's petition for certiorari. 516 U. S. 973 (1995).

In McDonnell Douglas, we "established an allocation of the burden of production and an order for the presentation of proof in Title VII discriminatory-treatment cases." St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U. S. 502, 506 (1993). We held that a plaintiff alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. 2000e et seq., could establish a prima facie case by showing "(i) that he belongs to a racial minority; (ii) that he applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (iii) that, despite his qualifications, he was rejected; and (iv) that, after his rejection, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants from persons of [the] complainant's qualifications." McDonnell Douglas,

1 The court also concluded that even under a modified version of the McDonnell Douglas prima facie standard which the Fourth Circuit applies to reduction-in-force cases, see Mitchell v. Data General Corp., 12 F. 3d 1310, 1315 (1993), petitioner could not prevail. We limit our review to the Fourth Circuit's treatment of this case as a non-reduction-in-force case.

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