On October 26, 2015, NELA joined the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association (MWELA) in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of the Plaintiff-Appellant in Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc.
Drawing on an extensive line of cases from the U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals, the amicus brief systematically dismantles the legal and practical reasoning underlying the so-called “honest belief” defense. To accept a defendant’s professed “honest belief” that the reasons for taking an adverse action against an employee are correct, when presented with evidence that the asserted reasons are unworthy of credence, requires the court to draw a series of inferences regarding the weight of that evidence and the credibility of those presenting it, in favor of the non-moving party. This is forbidden at summary judgment, as recently re-affirmed by the U.S Supreme Court in Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861 (2014). Further, the brief thoroughly demonstrates that the application of the “honest belief” defense is incompatible with the longstanding rules courts have used to determine whether a defendant’s proffered non-discriminatory reasons are in fact a pretext for unlawful behavior.
The brief was drafted by Stephen Z. Chertkof (Heller, Huron, Chertkof & Salzman, PLLC), Erik D. Snyder (Law Offices of Erik D. Snyder), and Alan R. Kabat (Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC), all from Washington, D.C.