Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. v. White

548 U.S. 53, 126 S. Ct. 2405 (2006)



In the context of 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-3(a), a plaintiff must show that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse, which in this context means the anticipated adversity well might have dissuaded the employee from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. 


Respondent employee sued petitioner employer, alleging retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-3 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The employee alleged that the employer retaliated against her for complaining about her supervisor's sexual harassment by reassigning her from forklift duty to standard track laborer tasks and suspending her without pay before reinstating her. A jury found in favor of the employee. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard the matter en banc and affirmed the judgment. Certiorari was granted to resolve the disagreement over the proper standard to apply.


Does the anti-retaliation provision apply to retaliatory actions that are unrelated to the terms and conditions of employment?




The Court held that the anti-retaliation provision was not limited to discriminatory actions that affected the terms and conditions of employment, and the employee needed to show that a reasonable employee would have found the challenged action materially adverse. The Court found that there was a sufficient evidentiary basis to support the jury's verdict because a jury could reasonably conclude that the reassignment of responsibilities would have been materially adverse to a reasonable employee, even though the former and present duties fell within the same job description, and it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that the 37-day suspension without pay was materially adverse, even though the suspension had been rescinded.

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