In Thompson v. North American Stainless, the Court held that third-party retaliation claims are permitted under Title VII of the Civil Rights act. In this action, Thompson’s fiancé filed a sex discrimination charge against North American Stainless (NAS). After Thompson’s fiancé filed the charge, NAS promptly fired Thompson. Thompson then brought a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging that NAS fired him because NAS wanted to retaliate against his fiancé for filing her sex discrimination charge.
The District Court held that Thompson did not have a claim under Title VII because Title VII’s retaliation provision only protected parties that had engaged in activity that led to the discrimination. The Court reversed, however, and remanded for trial on the merits, reasoning that if Thompson’s allegations were true then NAS did in fact terminate him out of retaliation for his fiancé’s conduct. The Court held that, according to Burlington N. &S.F.R. Co. v. White, Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision must be read to cover a broad range of employer conduct.
Title VII prohibits any employer action that might dissuade a reasonable worker from making a discrimination charge and, accordingly, a reasonable worker in Thompson’s fiancé’s position would surely be dissuaded if her fiancé would be fired when she attempted to make a claim. Thus, Title VII is not limited to merely the person who was engaged in the acts that compromise of the discrimination claim, but also extends to anyone who has been injured by the unlawful employer retaliation.
Therefore, in the employment discrimination context, an employer must be mindful of why they decide to terminate an employee, because Title VII’s anti-retaliation claim is construed broadly to the benefit of the aggrieved employee.