The Supreme Court Expands Protection Against Employer Retaliation

The United States Supreme Court has recently expanded the protections afforded to employees against retaliation by their employers. Earlier this year, the Court decided Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville. In Crawford, the Metro Government of Nashville conducted an internal investigation regarding rumors of sexual harassment by its school district employee relations director. Although the plaintiff, Ms. Crawford, had not previously complained of sexual harassment, she was asked, as a part of the investigation, whether she had witnessed any inappropriate behavior. After she responded in the affirmative, she was fired. Ms. Crawford filed suit, alleging that her employer’s conduct was in retaliation for her report. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that Ms. Crawford’s claims did not fall under the opposition clause of Title VII. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the opposition clause can encompass an employee’s participation in an internal investigation, despite the fact that the investigation was not brought about by the employee herself. The Court stated, “[i]f it were clear law that an employee who reported discrimination in answering an employer’s questions could be penalized with no remedy, prudent employees would have a good reason to keep quiet about Title VII offenses against themselves or against others.”

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