One More Pro-Employer Decision from the U.S. Supreme Court

On June 24, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that creates a higher standard for employees to prove retaliation under Title VII.  The Court ruled that although an employee must only show that their status was a motivating factor to prevail on a claim for discrimination because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin (status-based discrimination), a higher standard is applicable to an employee’s claim that they were retaliated against because they complained about the employer’s status-based discrimination.  The Court held that for an employee to prevail, they must present proof that the employer’s desire to retaliate was the but-for cause of the alleged retaliation.  Put another way, an employee must prove that the unlawful retaliation would not have occurred in the absence of the alleged wrongful action or actions of the employer. University of Tex. Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar.

As in the Vance decision, also issued on June 24, 2013, the Court acknowledged that the practical impact of the decision: the possible reduction in frivolous claims for retaliation, which will benefit employers, agencies and courts given that retaliation claims  outnumber claims for every type of status based discrimination except race.

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