Supreme Court Decisions Protect Workers From Retaliation For Reporting On-The-Job Discrimination

May 27, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed two decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court today protecting workers from retaliation when they complain about on-the-job discrimination.

In CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, the Court ruled, by a 7-2 vote, that a Civil War-era statute designed to prohibit racial discrimination in the “mak[ing] and “enforce[ing] of contracts” bars retaliation against an employee who reports discrimination against another worker in the workplace.

Similarly, in Gomez-Perez v. Potter, the Court ruled, by a 6-3 vote, that federal employees, like private-sector employees, are protected against retaliation for reporting violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Although neither statute expressly provides for retaliation claims, the Court recognized, in its two decisions, that protection against retaliation is essential to the vigorous enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws.The Court also noted that its decisions today were consistent with a long line of prior decisions interpreting other, related civil rights statutes.

“Today’s decisions are appropriately grounded in the realities of the workplace,” said Steven R. Shapiro, National Legal Director of the ACLU. “Workers who fear retaliation are far less likely to report discrimination. Congress understood as much when it passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race and age. By acknowledging that fact in its decisions today, the Court has protected workers and respected congressional intent.”

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