A woman files a gender discrimination charge against her employer. Her fiance works at the same company. Three weeks after the woman files her discrimination complaint, he gets fired. Retaliation?
Question: Is the company liable for retaliation? Answer: No, according to a federal appeals court.
The court ruled that since the man didn’t engage in “protected activity” – he didn’t file a charge, oppose a company practice or participate in an investigation – he had no basis on which to bring a retaliation claim.
Here’s what happened: A female employee of a steel manufacturer in Kentucky filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against her employer, saying she’d been discriminated against on account of her gender.
Then the company fired her fiance. He sued, saying he’d been fired because she filed the complaint. The appeals panel tossed the case, saying the law doesn’t “authorize a claim by a plaintiff who did not himself engage in protected activity.”
Good news for employers. Still, these are treacherous waters. In a separate concurring opinion, one judge wrote that had the woman filed the retaliation suit, it might have been successful – because firing her fiance would have been injurious to her.
Cite: Thompson v. North American Stainless
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