When a decision-maker hears of a co-worker’s remark about another employee’s protected class status, does it merely “go in one ear and out the other” with no effect on the decision-maker’s ability to make neutral employment decisions regarding the affected employee? What if the decision-maker himself makes a remark related to the affected employee’s protected status? Do such remarks constitute evidence of the employer’s discriminatory motivation?

To establish a disparate treatment claim, a plaintiff must show that a discriminatory animus motivated the employer to make the adverse employment decision. Hazen Paper Co. v. Briggs, 507 U.S. 604, 610 (1993). As evidence of discrimination, plaintiffs often offer verbal remarks made by superiors that relate to their protected status.

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