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501.02000 – Burden of Proof; Evidence

Unlawful motive is the specific nexus required in the establishment of a prima facie case of retaliation. Direct proof of motivation is rarely possible, since motivation is a state of mind which may be known only to the actor. Thus unlawful motive can be established by circumstantial evidence and inferred from the record as a whole. Where the employer’s motive is the central issue, the fact finder must often rely heavily on circumstantial evidence and inferences. Only rarely will there be probative direct evidence of the employer's motivation. An illegal purpose harbored by a discriminating employer may be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the adverse action. These may include anti-union animus exhibited by the employer or its agents; the pretextual nature of the ostensible justification; or other failure to establish a business justification. In such cases, the Board is free to draw inferences from all the circumstances, and need not accept an employer’s self-serving declarations of intent, even if they are uncontradicted. If the charging party establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have taken the same course of action, regardless of any protected activity.