U.S. Supreme Court Rules for Employees in Two Retaliation Cases

May 28, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - U.S. Supreme Court justices have rendered broad interpretations of workplace discrimination laws giving employees protection from retaliation even if such protection was not explicitly set out in the statues.

A New York Times news report said the high court applied the sweeping interpretation to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race and gender as well as to a provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

According to the Times, the cases were:

  • CBOCS West, Inc. versus Humphries  (a 7 to 2 vote): The case was brought by a former assistant manager of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, an African American named Hedrick G. Humphries. Humphries complained that a white assistant manager was motivated by racial discrimination in dismissing a black employee and that he eventually lost his own post as a retaliatory reaction to his complaints.
  • Gomez-Perez versus Potter, Postmaster General (a 6 to 3 vote): The lawsuit   was filed by a United States Postal Service employee in Puerto Rico, Myrna Gómez-Pérez (See ADEA Case Before Supreme Court Could Have Wider Implications ). Gomez-Perez, 45 at the time, complained that she had been denied a transfer to a different office because of age discrimination and then was retaliated against by her supervisors after complaining.

Among other assertions, the justices ruled in the CBOCS case that   42 U. S. C. §1981, which gives “[a]ll persons . . . the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens,” does cover retaliation claims.    The contracts referred to in the statute could include employment contracts.  

In the Gomez-Perez matter, the Supreme Court held that a section of the ADEA does bar retaliation against federal employees in age-bias claims. A federal appellate court previously ruled that it did not include retaliation charges.

The Gomez-Perez ruling is available here .

The CBOCS ruling is available here .