The U.S. Supreme Court has held that an employee who was fired shortly after his fiancée filed a bias charge against their employer may sue for third-party retaliation under Title VII. According to the court, the employee could be considered an “aggrieved person” because he was “well within the zone of interests sought to be protected by Title VII.” What's the practical impact for employers?
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Score one for common sense: People who want a job they see posted have to apply before they can sue for not getting it. A phone call to HR that was never returned can’t be grounds for a failure-to-hire lawsuit.
Courts don’t like it when employees are treated unfairly. On the other hand, judges don’t want to serve as HR courts, either. That’s why they generally defer to management decisions that seem fair and honest. Judges prefer it when employers investigate allegations of employee wrongdoing before they fire someone—but they don’t require that the investigation be perfect.
Guess which of your employees are among the most likely to file a discrimination complaint, request ADA accommodations or ask for FMLA leave. Those who know they’re in trouble at work. They think that by doing so, they’ll make you think twice before discharging them. If that doesn’t keep you from firing them, guess what happens next.
Employees tend to get angry if management dismisses or turns a blind eye to some perceived injustice. That anger may manifest itself in many ways, including refusing to cooperate with reasonable requests. You don’t have to put up with that passive-aggressive behavior.
With the most recent U.S. Supreme Court pronouncement on retaliation, it’s now clearly impermissible to punish someone who is closely related to an employee who has filed an EEOC complaint or lawsuit. But you can protect yourself by limiting who within the company knows about litigation.
If you don’t have a chance to personally observe an employee’s behavior, don’t rely solely on a supervisor’s termination recommendation. Instead, conduct an independent investigation to verify the supervisor’s claim. Otherwise, any employment decision based on that recommendation can be tainted by the supervisor’s hidden bias.
It seems administrators at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill College didn’t know one of their employees as well as they thought they did. The Rev. James St. George had been teaching Bible studies, theology and justice courses at the Catholic college since 2009. When St. George wrote in a blog posting that he is gay, the college fired him.