Justice Scalia, delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether a plaintiff alleging that he was discharged in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 621 et seq., must show that he was replaced by someone outside the age group protected by the ADEA to make out a prima facie case under the framework established by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
Petitioner James O'Connor was employed by respondent Consolidated Coin Caterers Corporation from 1978 until August 10, 1990, when, at age 56, he was fired. Claiming that he had been dismissed because of his age in violation of the ADEA, petitioner brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. After discovery, the District Court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment, 829 F.Supp. 155 (1993), and petitioner
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,
In assessing claims of age discrimination brought under the ADEA, the Fourth Circuit, like others,
As the very name "prima facie case" suggests, there must be at least a logical connection between each element of the prima facie case and the illegal discrimination for which it
Perhaps some courts have been induced to adopt the principle urged by respondent in order to avoid creating a prima facie case on the basis of very thin evidence—for example, the replacement of a 68-year-old by a 65-year-old. While the respondent's principle theoretically permits such thin evidence (consider the example above of a 40-year-old replaced by a 39-year-old), as a practical matter it will rarely do so, since the vast majority of age-discrimination claims come from older employees. In our view, however, the proper solution to the problem lies not in making an utterly irrelevant factor an element of the prima facie case, but rather in recognizing that the prima facie case requires "evidence adequate to create an inference that an employment decision was based on a[n] [illegal] discriminatory criterion . . . . " Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 358 (1977) (emphasis
The judgment of the Fourth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Maryland et al. by J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, and Tarra DeShields-Minnis and Andrew H. Baida, Assistant Attorneys General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Winston Bryant of Arkansas, M. Jane Brady of Delaware, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada, Deborah T. Poritz of New Jersey, Mark Barnett of South Dakota, and W. A. Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma; for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States by Marshall B. Babson, Stanley R. Strauss, Sue J. Henry, Stephen A. Bokat, Robin S. Conrad, and Mona C. Zeiberg; for the Equal Employment Advisory Council by Douglas S. McDowell; and for the New England Legal Foundation by Steven S. Ostrach and Cynthia L. Amara.
Jack L. Whitacre filed a brief for the National Retail Federation as amicus curiae.