Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that an employee may sue his employer under federal antidiscrimination laws. The employee claims that he was fired after his fiance, who worked for the same company, filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit. The Court ordered that a lower court make a decision on the case.
In 1997, Eric Thompson was hired as an engineer by North American Stainless (NAS). In 2000, the company hired Miriam Regalado. Thompson began dating Regalado and became engaged to marry her in 2002. In September of that year, Regalado filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against North American Stainless through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Three weeks after the company was notified of the lawsuit, it fired Thompson. Following the termination, Thompson filed his own lawsuit against the company. Thompson claimed that he was fired in retaliation for Regalado’s lawsuit.
In the subsequent litigation, the company argued that Thompson could not sue for retaliation because federal law does not prohibit firing an employee for the protected activity of his fiance. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with the company, finding that Thompson had no legal grounds on which to sue. Thompson appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal antidiscrimination laws do cover employees in this situation. “Accepting the facts as alleged, Thompson is not an accidental victim of the retaliation. Hurting him was the unlawful act by which NAS punished Regalado,” the Court noted in its written opinion of the case.
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