On January 24, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employer may be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for retaliating against a third party who has a “relationship” with an employee who has filed a charge of discrimination.
In this case, Miriam Regalado and her fiancé, Eric Thompson, worked for North American Stainless, LP. Ms. Ragalado filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that she was discriminated against because of her sex. A few weeks later, the company fired Mr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson sued the company alleging that he was retaliated against because of Ms. Ragalado’s complaint.
The Court concluded that Mr. Thompson fell within the “zone of interest” protected by Title VII and that he was an intended beneficiary of the statute’s anti-retaliation provisions. In identifying the scope of relationships that would likely be entitled to such protection, the Court stated that a family member would almost always be protected and a mere acquaintance would almost never be protected.
This case has important implications for employers. In the wake of a discrimination complaint, employers should not retaliate against the complaining employee or anyone connected to him or her. It is important to make sure that your supervisors and managers are aware of this ruling so as to understand the implications of their actions and how they could give rise to a claim against the employer.
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