Supreme Court Extends Reach of Retaliation Protection Under Title VII

In Thompson v. North American Stainless, decided yesterday (Jan. 24, 2011), the U.S. Supreme Court extended Civil Rights Act Title VII protection against retaliation to the fiancé of someone who had filed an EEOC complaint against the same company.

Eric Thompson, who worked at North American, was fired after his fiancée lodged a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and he quickly sued for redress under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Sixth Circuit Court ruled that he had no standing to file suit since he had not engaged in any protected activity.

In reviewing the Sixth Circuit Court's decision, the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

The purpose of Title VII’s retaliation provision is to combat employer conduct that “might have dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.”  Firing one’s fiancee clearly falls under that “reasonable worker” standard, the Court held.

The decision should make employers more careful in training their managers about retaliation, its scope and expanded reach.

To help you do this, Personnel Concepts maintains a variety of easy-to-follow but powerful compliance kits and training materials on its Harassment and Discrimination section on its Web site. Visit there today, and make sure your managers are in step with all harassment and discrimination laws.

NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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