January 24, 2011

Supreme Court Decides Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP

On January 24, 2011, the Supreme Court decided Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, No. 09-291, holding that the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extend to those who claim third-party retaliation.

After Miriam Regalado filed a sex discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against defendant, it fired her fiancé, plaintiff Eric Thompson. Thompson sued for retaliation, but the district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on grounds that third-party retaliation claims are not permitted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The en banc Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Thompson was not entitled to sue for retaliation because he had not engaged in any activity protected by the statute.

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that if the facts alleged were true, Thompson's firing constituted unlawful retaliation. According to the Court, Title VII's sweep is broad and prohibits any employer action that might dissuade a reasonable worker for making or supporting a discrimination charge. The Court held that, in using the term "person aggrieved," Title VII incorporates the zone of interest test of the Administrative Procedure Act and that Thompson was a "person aggrieved" because Title VII's purpose is to protect employees from their employers' unlawful actions.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other members joined, except Justice Kagan, who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Justice Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Breyer joined.

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