Monday, January 24, 2011
Another Unanimous US Supreme Court Decision: Third-Party Retaliation Claims within the "Zone of Interest" Cognizable
Thanks to Scott Bauries (Kentucky) for bringing to our attention the decision this morning in an important relation case in the employment discrimination context. You might remember our discussions previously about Thompson v. North American Stainless:
[That case involves] employee, Eric Thompson, who was allegedly fired because his then-fiancée, Miriam Regalado, had filed a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC over the actions of their shared employer. In a fractured en banc decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Thompson did not have a retaliation claim under § 704(a) of Title VII.
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed in an opinion by Justic Scalia, with Justices Ginsburg and Breyer concurring and Justice Kagan taking no part in the decision (I had predicted 8-1 in favor of plaintiff after oral argument). The Court adopted the “zone of interests” standing test from administrative law and held that the Plaintiff, as the fiancé of the employee retaliated against, is within the zone of interests protected by the Title VII retaliation provisions:
[The Court described the] “zone of interests” test as denying a right of review “if the plaintiff’s interests are so marginally related to or inconsistent with the purposes implicit in the statute that it cannot reasonably be assumed that Congress intended to permit the suit.”
Ginsburg concurred separately, with Breyer joining her, to emphasize that the "decision accords with the longstanding viewsof the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that administers Title VII."
Kudos to colleague and friend Eric Schnapper (Washington) who successfully argued this case for plaintiff!