Supreme Court Victory for Employers Facing Title VII Retaliation Claims

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On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court held in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, that the burden of proof for plaintiffs arguing retaliation in violation of Title VII is “but-for” causation, rather than the lessened “motivating factor” causation standard.

A former University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center employee, respondent Dr. Naiel Nassar, alleged that his immediate supervisor discriminated against him due to his religion and his race, and that the Medical School retaliated against him when he complained about the discrimination. Following a jury trial where Dr. Nassar succeeded on both his discrimination and retaliation claims, the Medical School hired King & Spalding to pursue post-trial district court proceedings and appeal the verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit overturned the jury’s verdict on Dr. Nassar’s status-based discrimination, but affirmed the jury’s verdict with respect to the retaliation claim, holding that under the motivating factor causation standard, there was sufficient evidence that retaliatory animus played a factor in Dr. Nassar’s termination.

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