THOMPSON v. NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
09-291
Petitioner 
Eric Thompson
Respondent 
North American Stainless LP
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(Acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Eric Thompson and his fiancée-then-wife, Miriam Regalado, worked for North American Stainless, the owner and operator of a stainless steel manufacturing facility in Carroll County, KY. Regalado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in September 2002, alleging that her supervisors discriminated against her based on her gender. On February 13, 2003, the EEOC notified North American Stainless of the charge. Slightly more than three weeks later, North American Stainless terminated Thompson's employment. Thompson filed a complaint, which alleged that he was fired in retaliation for Regalado's EEOC charge. Retaliating in that way, Thompson asserted, violated section 704(a) of Title VII, which forbids an employer to "discriminate against any of his employees ... because he has... made a charge ... under this title." The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky dismissed Thompson's complaint, holding that Title VII "does not permit third party retaliation claims." A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court order. But the court of appeals granted the employer's petition for rehearing en banc. A splintered en banc court upheld the dismissal of Thompson's complaint.

Question 

Does an employer violate an anti-retaliation provision of a federal civil rights statute by firing the fiancée of the employee who complained about discrimination? Can the fired employee sue, or only the employee who filed the complaint?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for Thompson, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Title VII 1964 Civil Rights Act

Yes. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court order in a unanimous opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, which held that Title VII's anti-retaliation provision must be construed to cover a broad range of employer conduct, including Thompson's cause of action. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion, which was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in consideration of the case.

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THOMPSON v. NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_291>.
THOMPSON v. NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_291 (last visited November 10, 2014).
"THOMPSON v. NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_291.