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PRESS RELEASE
1-24-11

Supreme Court Upholds EEOC’s Retaliation Reach

Fiancé of Person Filing a Charge of Discrimination Protected From Employer’s Retaliatory Action, Court Rules

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled today that the fiancé of a woman who filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), was protected from retaliation by their mutual employer and had standing to redress this illegal act. In a unanimous opinion, Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, No. 09-291, the Supreme Court held that long-standing EEOC interpretations of the scope of the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) applied to an individual harmed by retaliation, even if that person had not himself filed a charge of discrimination.

In Thompson, Miriam Regalado filed a charge of discrimination against her employer, North American Stainless (NAS). Three weeks after receiving notice of the charge from the EEOC, NAS fired Regalado’s fiancé, Eric Thompson, who also worked there. Thompson then filed his own charge, claiming his termination was in retaliation for Regalado’s initial charge. After the district court in Kentucky and the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Thompson could not raise a retaliation claim because he himself had not filed a charge of discrimination, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and issued its decision reversing the lower courts’ opinions.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court opinion issued today,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “The unanimous decision reaffirms the importance of preventing retaliation against those seeking to protect their civil rights.”

This past fiscal year, the EEOC received more charges alleging retaliation than any other basis, supplanting race discrimination charges for the first time in its 45-year history as the most numerous.

The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information about the EEOC can be obtained at www.eeoc.gov.