Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins Case Brief

Facts of the case

Ann Hopkins worked at Price Waterhouse for five years before being proposed for partnership. Although Hopkins secured a $25 million government contract that year, the board decided to put her proposal on hold for the following year. The next year, when Price Waterhouse refused to re-propose her for partnership, she sued under Title VII for sex discrimination. Of 622 partners at Price Waterhouse, 7 were women. The partnership selection process relied on recommendations by other partners, some of whom openly opposed women in advanced positions, but Hopkins also had problems with being overly aggressive and not getting along with office staff.The district court held that Price Waterhouse had discriminated, but Hopkins was not entitled to full damages because her poor interpersonal skills also contributed to the board’s decision. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed, but held that the employer is not liable if it can show by clear and convincing evidence that it would have made the same employment decision in the absence of discrimination.


The Supreme Court held that conventional rules of civil litigation generally applied in Title VII cases, and one of those rules was that parties to civil litigation need only prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Thus, the Court held that when a plaintiff in a Title VII case proved that gender played a motivating part in an employment decision, defendant could avoid a finding of liability only by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have made the same decision even if it had not taken plaintiff’s gender into account.

  • Advocates: James H. Heller on behalf of the Respondent Ms. Kathryn A. Oberly on behalf of the Petitioner
  • Petitioner: Price Waterhouse
  • Respondent: Ann B. Hopkins
  • DECIDED BY:Rehnquist Court
  • Location: Price Waterhouse
Citation: 490 US 228 (1989)
Argued: Oct 31, 1988
Decided: May 1, 1989
Granted: Mar 7, 1988
Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins Case Brief