protect itself in this action. Geraci filed a complaint with the EEOC and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and subsequently filed the action that is before the Court, alleging that MTI's actions in terminating her from her employment based on her pregnancy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e - 2000e-17 (1994) ("Title VII"). MTI contends that summary judgment must be granted because Geraci has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to satisfy her burden of establishing a prima facie case of pregnancy discrimination.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD.
Summary judgment may only be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact, and an issue is "genuine" only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Where the nonmovant will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the nonmovant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
Title VII prohibits employers from discharging an employee because of that employee's gender, which includes actions taken on the basis of an employee's pregnancy. 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1) and 2000e(k) (1994). Discrimination cases alleging disparate treatment, such as the present case, fall within one of two categories: "pretext" and "mixed motives" cases. Ezold v. Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, 983 F.2d 509, 522 (3d Cir. 1992). The type of case presented depends upon the evidence of discrimination provided by the plaintiff. A plaintiff may either provide direct evidence of discrimination, the "mixed-motive" case, or more commonly, show discrimination through the indirect, burden-shifting framework set forth by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973) and Texas Dep't of Comm. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-56, 67 L. Ed. 2d 207, 101 S. Ct. 1089 (1981), the so-called "pretext" case. Geraci does not argue that the evidence presented entitles her to a mixed-motives analysis; rather, she presents her case as falling under the pretext theory of discrimination.
In a pretext case, an employee argues that the employer's facially legitimate reason for the adverse employment decision is false and is merely a pretext disguising its real reason for the adverse decision, i.e., discrimination. Under the pretext theory, the plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of employment discrimination. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. Once the prima facie case is established, a presumption of discrimination is established and the burden is then shifted to the defendant to produce evidence establishing a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action.
Id. If the defendant meets this burden of production, the presumption of discrimination drops from the case, and the plaintiff must then satisfy the ultimate burden of proving discrimination by showing that the employer's proffered explanation was not the true reason for the employment decision and that gender was. Id. Although most summary judgment cases focus on whether a plaintiff can demonstrate a genuine issue of fact regarding pretext, summary judgment is also appropriate if the plaintiff fails to raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding one or more elements of the prima facie case. Fowle v. C&C Cola, 868 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989).
In order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must at a minimum show that she was a member of a protected class, that she was qualified for the employment position, and that she was not hired or discharged from that position "'under circumstances that give rise to an inference of discrimination.'" Waldron v. SL Industries, Inc. et al., 56 F.3d 491, 494 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253). MTI contends that as part of a prima facie case of discrimination based on pregnancy, a plaintiff must initially show that the employer knew she was pregnant, and consequently a member of the protected class, in order to establish an inference of discrimination. In this case, MTI argues that summary judgment is appropriate because Geraci has adduced no evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that Price or Trott knew she was pregnant when she was terminated from her position. We agree.
The issue of whether a plaintiff must show that her employer knew of her pregnancy in order to satisfy her prima facie case under Title VII is apparently one of first impression in the Third Circuit. At least one court having squarely addressed the issue, however, has concluded that a plaintiff must establish that her employer knew of her pregnancy to trigger the presumption of discrimination established by the prima facie case. See DeNardo v. Clarence House Imports, Ltd., 870 F. Supp. 227 (N.D. Ill. 1994). As Judge Williams so persuasively explains in DeNardo:
The issue of whether or not [Plaintiff] was a member of the protected class . . . is trickier than it appears. Unlike other protected classes, such as race, gender or national origin, pregnancy, especially in its early stages, is not always readily discernible. It is therefore possible for an individual to qualify as a member of the protected class, as a pregnant woman, even though her employer has no actual knowledge that she is pregnant. In these cases, it hardly seems fair or even rational to infer discrimination based on the burden shifting formula laid out in McDonnell Douglas The rationale behind the McDonnell Douglas presumption is that when an employer takes action against a member of a protected class without a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for doing so, it is reasonable to presume that such action was motivated by impermissible factors. See Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255, 101 S. Ct. at 1094. However, if the employer does not know that an individual is a member of a protected class, such a presumption ceases to be rational.