Third Party Retaliation Declared Illegal: U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Plaintiff Can State Retaliation Claim When Employer Strikes Back Against Victim’s Fiancé

Title VII rules prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees are pretty clear. Retaliation against a person to asserts the right to be free of employment discrimination is a major offense.  But what if the employer doesn’t retaliate directly against an employee who complains about a violation, but rather, takes action against a third party who may have some relationsihp to the victim, such as the person’s fiancé?  Can the employee still state a retaliation claim under Title VII?

Yes, according to the United States Supreme Court.  In Thompson v. North American Stainless LP (copy attached for your convenience), the Court ruled that the ban on retaliatory conduct covers negative actions against a victim’s family members and even the victim’s fiancé.  While the court did not outline a fixed class of “third party relationships” that would qualify for protection, the justices nevertheless issued a strong opinion (authored by Justice Antonin Scalia) that sets the tone for Title VII:  don’t retaliate!

While it will take future litigation to flesh out the parameters of so-called “third party retaliation,” it does seem clear at this juncture that the courts are intent on making real the statutory promise that employers must not retaliate against aggrieved employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace.

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