Supreme Court Broadens Scope of Title VII Anti-Retaliation Provision to Include Employees with Close Relationships to Employee Engaging in Protected Activity

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On January 24, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an 8–0 decision in Thompson v. North Am. Stainless, LP,1 holding that a male employee who claimed he was fired because his fiancée filed a sex discrimination charge against their mutual employer may pursue a retaliation claim against his employer under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII).

Eric Thompson and his fiancée, Miriam Regalado, were both employed by North American Stainless (NAS). In February 2003, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notified NAS that Regalado had filed a charge alleging sex discrimination by NAS. Three weeks after this notification, NAS fired Thompson.

Thompson filed his own charge against NAS with the EEOC, alleging retaliation, and subsequently sued NAS under Title VII. Title VII outlaws retaliation against employees for exercising the rights it grants, and provides that "[it] shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has made a charge under Title VII."

The Supreme Court, without addressing the merits of Thompson's claim, first concluded that Regalado's filing of a charge with the EEOC was protected conduct under Title VII. The Court then determined that the case presented two distinct issues:

1. Did NAS's firing of Thompson, if Thompson's allegations were taken as true, constitute unlawful retaliation?

2. If the firing did constitute retaliation, does Thompson have standing—that is the right to sue—for the alleged retaliation?

Please see full article below for more information.

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