Title VII – The Discrimination Law 

In a decision released last week, The U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of who is covered by the retaliation provision of Title VII.

Title VII is the discrimination law that protects employees from illegal discrimination in the workplace. It also protects individuals from retaliation for bringing a discrimination complaint. Who ever thought that it covered third parties, such as a co-worker spouse or partner? In the case of Thompson v. North American Stainless Steel, last week, the Supreme Court held that the spouse of a woman who complained about sex discrimination, could proceed with a retaliation lawsuit, after he was fired shortly after his wife complained about discrimination. The lower courts threw out his case, saying the law didn’t protect a non-complaining spouse from retaliation.

I have often represented one spouse where both of them work at the same company, and have been concerned that the spouse who is still there could be fired too. Prior to this Supreme Court decision, it seemed pretty clear that the innocent spouse was not protected. This Supreme Court case, however, has made it clear that a spouse or close relative can proceed with a claim if they are retaliated against and/or wrongfully discharged solely based on their relationship to the discrimination complainant.

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Bruce Coane is a leading lawyer with 30 years of experience in the field of immigration law and employment law. He may be reached via email at houstonlaw@aol.com or his website at Coane and Associates.

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