The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court took direct review of this national origin discrimination case to answer a question that had perplexed employment lawyers: Under Massachusetts law, is an employee entitled to recover simply by demonstrating that the employer’s articulated reason for an adverse employment decision was a pretext? During deliberations, the jury asked: "If we believe that Harvard’s rationale for firing Mr. Abramian is a pretext, are we therefore bound" to find Harvard engaged in illegal discrimination? The Superior Court instructed the jury they were so bound.
On behalf of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, NELF filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard’s position that, to impose liability, the jury must find that an employer more likely than not discriminated, rather than finding only that it failed to articulate the real reason for its decision. The SJC agreed and held that "a finding of pretext permits but does not compel a finding of discrimination."