Employees recently scored two major victories before the United States Supreme Court. Both cases involved allegations of workplace discrimination. In each case, the Supreme Court recognized an employee’s right to bring claims for retaliation where reports of unlawful discrimination result in a backlash by the employer.
In Gomez-Perez v. Potter, Myrna Gómez-Pérez worked as a clerk for the United States Postal Service in Puerto Rico. During her employment, Gómez alleged that she was subject to retaliatory treatment after filing an age discrimination complaint against her supervisors under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The federal district court of Puerto Rico granted summary judgment to USPS, reasoning that the United States had not waived sovereign immunity as to retaliation claims under the ADEA. Gómez appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which disagreed on the sovereign immunity issue but dismissed the retaliation on the basis that the ADEA does not recognize such claims by federal employees.
In CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, Hendrick Humphries, who is African-American, worked as an associate manager at Cracker Barrel. Following his termination, Humphries filed suit based on race discrimination and retaliation under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The main issue was whether Section 1981 recognizes a claim for retaliation. While Humphries lost his case in federal district court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Section 1981 protects against retaliation.
In both cases, the Supreme Court refused to restrict employee rights, and affirmed the viability of workplace retaliation claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. For more information about the Supreme Court’s decisions, please visit the New York Times article entitled, Justices Favor Workers in Cases of Bias Retaliation.