US SUPREME COURT RULES THAT FIRED FIANCE IS PROTECTED BY TITLE VII’S ANTI-RETALIATION PROVISION
By Kent Berk on January 25th, 2011 in BLOG, EMPLOYMENT DISPUTES, employment law
Eric Thompson and his fiance Miriam Regalado both worked for the same employer. Three weeks after the employer was notified that Miriam had filed a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC, the employer fired Eric. Eric then filed a charge with the EEOC and ultimately a lawsuit in federal court alleging that he was retaliated against in violation of Title VII because his fiance filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer finding that Title VII did not permit third-party retaliation claims. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. However, on January 24, 2011, the U. S. Supreme Court, in Thompson v. North American Stainless, reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and held that Eric had standing to sue under Title VII. Although the Supreme Court refused to set a fixed class of relationships that would encompass the third-party protections of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision, the Court did state that the firing of a close family member will likely always fit the bill unlike lesser discipline against a mere acquaintance which would likely never fit the bill. The Court went on to hold that an “aggrieved” party with standing to sue under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision needs to be within the “zone of interests” – i.e., have an interest “arguably sought to be protected by the statutes . . . while excluding plaintiffs who might technically be injured in an Article III sense but whose interests are unrelated to the statutory prohibitions in Title VII.” Because Eric was employed by the same employer as his fiance and, taking his allegations as true that hurting him was the intended means of harming her, the Court held he was within the “zone of interests” and thus had standing to file suit.