In the case, the plaintiffs explained Kraft's adverse employment actions were due to a bias against Hispanics. The district court ruled that there was not triable issue and granted summary judgment for the defendant, which the 7th Cir. reversed this in part.
The court rejected the inference, relied upon by the district court, that the lack of discrimination against one Hispanic employee implied that the supervisor and Kraft were not motivated by racial animus. "Title VII would have little force if an employer could defeat a claim of discrimination by treating a single member of the protected class in accordance with the law," the court wrote. It further explained that the statute protects individual employees, not the minority group as a whole.
The court explained that the district court's error may have been based in a confusion regarding the "similarly situated employee" factor, which applies to the indirect method of proof. In that situation, a plaintiff must establish that she was treated less favorably than a similarly situated person who is not a member of a protected class. However, reasoning does not work in reverse. An employer cannot prove a lack of discrimination by identifying to a member of the protected class who was not discriminated against.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs here were proceeding under the direct method of proof. They relied on statements by their supervisor that demonstrated his racial animus, which the district court failed to consider in the case of Diaz and Peña. As such, summary judgment was inappropriate as to these employees.