Friday, January 18, 2008
Among other cases granted is a test of whether federal law protects a worker from being fired after being a witness in a company or agency’s internal investigation of sexual harassment on the job (Crawford v. Metro Nashville Government, 06-1595). The Sixth Circuit Court ruled that only workers who pursue their own complaint about discrimination or persuade the federal government to pursue a charge are protected from retaliation under Title VII of federal civil rights law.
In a separate case involving workers’ rights — here, a claim of age bias in the workplace — the Court granted review of whether a worker or the employer has the burden of proving that the action taken was or was not done for a valid reason other than age (Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, 06-1505, grant limited to first question). Justice Stephen G. Breyer is recused from the case. The Second Circuit Court ruled that workers claiming a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act bear the burden of demonstrating that the layoffs at issue in the case were unreasonable and not justified by a reason other than age.
I had mistakenly written in another post that Crawford had not been granted. This has been fixed in the other post.
As far as Crawford, this is an important case because it directly concerns whether employees are likely to cooperate with their employers' internal investigations of harassing, discriminatory, or retaliatory content.
FWIW, I think 6th Circuit is clearly wrong and that the participation clause of Section 704(a) clearly does protect witnesses who participate in an internal investigation both for textual and policy reasons.
As far as Meacham, the issue of burden on the RFOA issue, I hope the Court reverses the Second Circuit and finds that the RFOA defense is in the nature of an affirmative defense and therefore, the employer has the burden. This should be so for either a disparate treatment or disparate impact case.