VanDeusen & Simons on Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP

VanDeusen & Simons on Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP

The Supreme Court held that a terminated employee may have a claim for retaliation under Title VII, even though that employee never opposed or participated in protected activity, but alleged that his termination was the company's response to another employee's allegations of discrimination. Darrell VanDeusen and Adam Simons explain the Court's decision and provide an analysis of the practical effect it will have on employers and employees.

Excerpt:

Retaliation has been on the mind of the Supreme Court quite a bit over the past few years. It started with the Court's 2006 decision in Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law], which adopted the "materially adverse" standard. It continued with CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries [enhanced version / unenhanced version] , and the decision that Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 encompasses retaliation claims as well as claims of race discrimination. In Gomez-Perez v. Potter [enhanced version / unenhanced version], issued the same day as Humphries, the Court held that retaliation claims are viable for federal employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), despite the absence of any language suggesting such protection. Then, in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville [enhanced version / unenhanced version], the Court made it clear that employees who raise concerns about discrimination or harassment in an internal investigation are protected from retaliation under Title VII's anti-retaliation clause.

The Court revisited the issue this term in Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP [overview and both versions], holding that a terminated employee may have a claim for retaliation under Title VII, even though that employee never opposed or participated in protected activity, but alleged that his termination was the company's response to another employee's allegations of discrimination. The 8-0 Court (Justice Kagan recused herself) also held that, in such circumstances, the terminated employee has standing to bring suit if he is in the "zone of interest" of people intended to be protected by Title VII. In so doing, the Court reversed the en banc decision of the Sixth Circuit.

Statutory Provisions

This case involved the interpretation and application of Sections 704(a) and 706(f) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 704(a) (codified as 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a)) [enhanced version only], creates the cause of action for retaliation in the workplace and provides, in relevant part, that:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees or applicants for employment . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter. [footnotes omitted]

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