A daunting question in employment discrimination litigation is whether Title VII’s anti-retaliation protection may apply to third party employees. In Thompson v. North American Stainless Steel, the Supreme Court addressed this very issue, holding that Title VII’s ban on workplace retaliation protects co-workers of discriminated employees under certain circumstances. Under Title VII, retaliation occurs when an employer unlawfully fires, demotes, harasses or in any other way “retaliates” against an individual because he or she complained of employment discrimination, filed a charge with the EEOC or participated in an employment discrimination proceeding.
In North American Stainless Steel, an employer fired a female employee’s fiancé after the employer discovered that the female employee filed a gender discrimination suit. The fiancée sued the employer under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision for damages and back pay. Lower courts dismissed the fiancé’s claims, concluding that Title VII did not permit third-party retaliation claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Title VII’s anti-retaliation protection extends to “any person with an interest arguably sought to be protected” by Title VII. In other words, a worker may file suit if his injury is directly related to the statutory prohibitions of Title VII, even if he is not the originally targeted employee.
The Court’s holding opens new doors for employment discrimination plaintiffs.
Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. If you or a loved one has been discriminated against by an employer in the workplace or when applying to a position in the workplace, you may have legal rights. For questions, contact Broussard & David at 1-888-337-2323 (toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).