Justices May Hash Out the 'R' Word

Debra S. Katz quoted by National Law Journal on U.S. Supreme Court retaliation case.

Marcia Coyle, STAFF REPORTER
April 17, 2006

Retaliation cases split lower courts.

Washington - For more than four decades, federal law has barred employers from retaliating against employees who complain of workplace discrimination. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court may decide what exactly retaliation is under that federal law.

The lower federal courts have split in multiple ways over what legal standard should be used in judging an employer's liability under the anti-retaliation provision in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

How the Supreme Court resolves that conflict in a challenge arising out of a railroad worker's sexual harassment complaint will have significant implications not just for Title VII cases but for cases under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other civil rights statutes, according to legal scholars and others. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, No. 05-259.

"Lots of other statutes have [anti-retaliation] provisions written in the exact same language," said civil rights scholar Eric Schnapper of the University of Washington School of Law, who has assisted the employee in the high court case. "The implications here are very broad." Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show that Title VII

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