Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Supreme Court Hears Wrongful Retaliation Lawsuit

A wrongful retaliation lawsuit that has now come before the Supreme Court could change the scope of wrongful retaliation litigation as California employment lawyers know it.

The case, Thompson v. North American Stainless involves third-party retaliation. The plaintiff, Eric Thompson was an employee of North American Stainless. The company soon hired Miriam Regalado, and Thompson and Miriam Regalado soon began dating. They became engaged in 2002.

That same year, Miriam Regalado filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against North American Stainless. North American Stainless then fired Thompson. Thompson filed a wrongful retaliation lawsuit against the company. According to the lawsuit, he had been fired in retaliation for his fiancée's lawsuit against the company.

In the lawsuit that followed, North American Stainless successfully argued that Thompson had no basis for suing for wrongful retaliation, because there are no federal laws that prohibit a company from firing an employee for the protected activity of a fiancée. A Kentucky District Court and the US Court of Appeals found in favor of the company. The courts held that Thompson had no legal basis on which to sue North American Stainless. Thompson then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will likely be looking back at one of its earlier judgments when it hears these arguments. Last year, the court ruled on a similar third-party wrongful retaliation lawsuit. In that case, the retaliation lawsuit was filed by a woman Vicky Crawford, an employee of the city of Nashville, Tennessee. She had worked with a person who had been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. She told investigators that the person, who had been accused of harassment, had also harassed her several times.

Instead of taking action against the harasser, the city made Crawford, and other persons in the company who had made the allegation, undergo a sexual harassment education and training program. After that, the city began an investigation of the accusers. Crawford was also placed under an investigation, and several false allegations were made against her, including those of drug use.

She then filed a retaliation lawsuit against the city. A federal court ruled against her because she had not brought a formal sexual harassment complaint against the harasser. However, the Supreme Court found that she did not need to bring a sexual harassment lawsuit to be protected from retaliation.

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