“He said, (s)he said” evidence good enough to get discrimination cases to trial

Many people who suspect they have been wrongfully terminated think they need “smoking gun” evidence to even have a chance in court. Not so, says a recent California appellate court case. 

In Nigro v. Sears, Roebuck and Co., the court ruled that just about any kind of evidence of discrimination will enable a case to proceed to trial, even if it is just the “self-serving” recollection of a biased plaintiff. The plaintiff in Nigro submitted a declaration (i.e., his own sworn statement) saying that he recalled his boss admitting that Sears would not accommodate the plaintiff’s disability. There were no incriminating emails or other documentary evidence; it was just the plaintiff’s word against the boss. The trial court initially disregarded the plaintiff’s declaration as biased and dismissed the case. But the appellate court reversed, holding that even cases supported only by self-serving declarations deserve to be decided by juries. Nigro confirms that discrimination cases supported by sufficient evidence should survive summary judgment and be allowed to proceed to trial, regardless what kind of evidence it is.