Associational discrimination: How close is close enough?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Last year, in Thompson v. North Am. Stainless, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized a claim under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision for associational retaliation: “Title VII prohibit[s] employers from taking retaliatory action against employees not directly involved in protected activity, but who are so closely related to or associated with” employees who engage in protected activity. (Emphasis added.)

I remain critical of this standard because it leaves open the issue of how close is close enough.

Recently, in Barrett v. Whirlpool Corp., the same court was faced with another issue concerning the relationships between protected and unprotected employees.

In Barrett, the court decided that, in claims of associational discrimination—that is, where one employee claims discrimination because of a relationship with protected employees—the degree of “closeness” between the employees simply does not matter....(register to read more)

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