Miriam Regalado sued her employer for alleged gender discrimination and three weeks later, the company fired her fiancé, citing “performance issues.” The couple then sued, [Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP (09-291)] claiming job retaliation for the original complaint aimed specifically at the man.
This case began when Regalado, one of just a few female engineers at the plant, filed a gender discrimination claim in February 2003. She alleged that male supervisors treated her unfairly. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits companies from retaliating against workers who report discrimination based on sex, race or religion. Three weeks after the complaint was filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), her fiancé Thompson was dismissed from his job as a metallurgical engineer. He thereafter filed his own separate retaliation claim.
The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled in favor of the couple. The Court held Eric Thompson had “standing” to file his own lawsuit to address the injuries he said he suffered as a result of the retaliation. The Court concluded that federal protections can extend to include third-party victims of retaliation.
“Accepting the facts as alleged, Thompson is not an accidental victim of the retaliation — collateral damage, so to speak of the employer’s unlawful act,” Justice Antonin Scalia said. “To the contrary, injuring him was the employer’s intended means of harming Regalado.”
The anti-retaliation provision in Title VII is “worded broadly,” Justice Scalia said. “We think it obvious that a reasonable worker might be dissuaded from engaging in protected activity if she knew that her fiancé would be fired.”