Can A Fiancé Bring A Third Party Retaliation Claim?

At the end of its 2009-2010 term, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the circumstances under which a third party may bring an action for retaliation. Specifically, the Court has agreed to review whether a worker may bring a suit for retaliation based on his fiancée’s filing of a sex discrimination claim against their mutual employer.

In Thompson v. N. Am. Stainless LP, an employee, Eric Thomson, was terminated three weeks after the company became aware of his fiancée’s sex discrimination claim against them.

Title VII prohibits retaliation as the result of a complaint about certain types of discrimination in the workplace, either directed at you or a fellow employee. Retaliation includes not only being fired, but also almost any negative action by your employer against you in response to a complaint about discrimination or acting as a witness in someone else’s case.

In Thompson, the Sixth Circuit determined that the employee’s status as the fiancé of an individual who filed a discrimination charge was not sufficient to pursue a claim of retaliation because he had not personally engaged in a protected activity.

Although the Justice Department recommended that the court deny review, the Supreme Court accepted the case and will hear oral argument when the new term begins.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled favorably on retaliation claims, finding that an employer may be liable under Title VII for actions that would dissuade a reasonable employee from making or assisting with a discrimination complaint. See Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006).

As Georgia employment lawyers dedicated to fighting discrimination in the work place, we will be following this case closely. Anti-retaliation rules do not apply to all types of work-place discrimination. For more information and to maximize your chances of being protected, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP.