SUPREME COURT RELEASES TWO IMPORTANT EMPLOYMENT RULINGS ON RETALIATION

by Patricia Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs

The Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 that a federal worker could pursue her lawsuit for retaliation brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Gomez-Perez sued claiming that her federal employer (U.S. Postal Service) retaliated against her because she filed an EEO complaint alleging age discrimination. Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion in the case. The opinion in Gomez-Perez v. Potter is here.

In the second ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled by a 7-2 vote that a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 covers claims of retaliation that follow complaints about discrimination on the basis of race. In this case, an African American associate manager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant claimed he was fired after he complained about race discrimination by other supervisors. The opinion in CBOCS West v. Humphries is here.

In both cases, there was no provision that expressly prohibited against retaliation. Employer groups objected in the Humphries case that the absence of an explicit prohibition on retaliation was significant and argued employees should have to file suit under another law. Justice Breyer, who delivered the court’s opinion in Humphries, said that the idea that a provision of the 1866 law, known as section 1981 “encompasses retaliation claims is indeed well embedded in the law.” Only Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented in the Humphries case.

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