In Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, No. 09-291 (2011), the plaintiff, Eric Thompson (“Thompson”), and his fiancée, Miriam Regaldo (“Regaldo”), both worked for North American Stainless, LP (“NAS”). Regaldo filed a sex discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) against NAS. Three weeks later, NAS fired Thompson. He then filed his own charge with the EEOC, and this suit against NAS under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that NAS fired him in retaliation for the charge that Regaldo filed. The question for the Supreme Court: Is Thompson’s retaliation claim permitted?
The Supreme Court held that, under the above facts, the firing of Thompson by NAS constitutes unlawful retaliation, which violates Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision. This provision prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee for engaging in protected conduct. As such, it proscribes any employer action that might dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Here, a reasonable worker might be so dissuaded from engaging in a protected activity-here filing a charge with the EEOC- if she knew it would lead to her fiancée being fired.
Does Thompson have standing to bring suit under Title VII? The Court said that Title VII provides that a civil action may be brought by the person claiming to be aggrieved. Thompson may be treated as the “person aggrieved” for this purpose. He falls within the zone of interests protected by Title VII, since he was an employee of NAS, and was the intended victim of the retaliation. Therefore, the Court concluded that Thompson has standing to bring his suit under Title VII, and that his retaliation claim is permitted.