In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court has broadened the definition of employer retaliation so that employees who report harassment can sue for acts of retaliation even if they are not fired or refused wages. Rather, retaliation can be judged on whether or not an employer’s actions would prevent a claim from being made at all, according to the Washington Post.
Sheila White, the plaintiff in Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, sued her employer after she was transferred from her job as a forklift operator to more menial tasks and given a 37 day suspension without pay, reports the New York Times. White alleged that her transfer and suspension were based on a complaint she made about a supervisor’s sexist comments, including a statement that a woman should not be working there, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times also reports that White was later transferred back and given back pay after filing two complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and one with her union.
Said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of White, “All people protected against job discrimination benefit from this decision, whether it be sexual harassment, or discrimination in hiring, promotions, or pay.”
The Supreme Court’s decision also strengthens a ruling from March 2005, when the Court ruled that those who are the victims of retaliation for drawing attention to Title IX violations can sue under the 1972 federal law prohibiting sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal financial assistance for education programs and activities.
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