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Courts have in each case to balance the purpose of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 to protect persons engaging reasonably in activities opposing sexual discrimination, against Congress' equally manifest desire not to tie the hands of employers in the objective selection and control of personnel. Allowing an employee to invoke the protection of § 704(a) of the Act for conduct aimed at achieving purely ulterior objectives, or for conduct aimed at achieving even proper objectives through the use of improper means, could have an effect directly contrary to Congress' goal by discouraging employers from hiring persons whom the Act is designed to protect. The standard can be little more definitive than the rule of reason applied by a judge or other tribunal to given facts. The requirements of the job and the tolerable limits of conduct in a particular setting must be explored.
The employee brought suit for interim relief pending disposition by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of her complaint of unlawful employment practices committed by the employer. The employee sought an order that would have required the employer to revoke its decision terminating her employment until the EEOC decided whether to bring suit on her behalf. The employee claimed that her discharge was in retaliation for her opposition to unlawful employment practices. The district court denied the application for the preliminary injunction, concluding that the employee failed to prove the likelihood of success on the merits of her claim of discrimination.
Did the district court err in denying the application for preliminary injunction, concluding that the employee had failed to prove the likelihood of success on the merits of her claim of discrimination?
The court affirmed the district court judgment, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief to the employee. The court noted that while the district court held that the employee demonstrated a prima facie case, the employer met its burden of proving that it had discharged the employee for legitimate and nondiscriminatory reasons.