Category Archives: Associational Discrimination

Associational Discrimination: Supreme Court Decides Thompson v. North American Stainless

On January 24, 2011, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, No. 09-291. The Court unanimously (8-0, with Justice Kagan recusing herself) reversed the 10-6 en banc decision from the Sixth Circuit. The Supreme Court held that Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision reached a Charging Party’s fiancé. The decision’s significant practical ramifications are discussed at the conclusion of this article.

Background Facts

The facts of this case are straightforward. The defendant company, North American Stainless (NAS) terminated one of its employees, Miriam Regalado. She filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, claiming that she had been discharged on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination. Three weeks after Regalado filed her Charge, NAS also terminated her fiancé, Eric Thompson. Thompson then independently filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC, claiming that he was a victim of retaliatory conduct by NAS. Answer→

Associational Discrimination, Quirky Question # 87

Quirky Question # 87:

Some time ago, you wrote an analysis about discrimination on the basis of inter-racial marriage.  We are confronting a slightly different problem.  Several of our Caucasian employees have complained that they have been discriminated against because of their friendships with their African American co-workers.  These individuals are not married to the African Americans and they have not even said they spend time with them away from work.  But, they are claiming discrimination nonetheless.  Similarly, they have complained that they are offended by some of the language used by some of their Caucasian co-workers with respect to minority employees who work at our company.  Do they have a potential claim?  Does Title VII reach claims brought by Caucasians who are complaining about treatment of minorities? Answer→

Discrimination Based on Inter-Racial Marriage, Quirky Question # 77

Quirky Question # 77:

One of our employees, who is Caucasian, recently complained that his manager has been treating him unfairly in a variety of ways.  He claims that his manager is discriminating against him because he is married to an African American woman.  Putting aside the issue of whether the manager actually is treating him unfairly, does Title VII even encompass discrimination on the basis of inter-racial marriage? Answer→

Scope of Retaliation Claims, Family Members?, Quirky Question # 62

Quirky Question # 62:

Your pending question regarding the “temporal proximity” required for retaliation claims is interesting.  I have a slightly different question, also involving retaliation claims.

What is the scope of the protections provided by retaliation provisions.  For example, if one member of a couple, both of whom worked for us, sues us for discrimination in connection with her discharge, could we fire her husband?  We think it would be a weird dynamic to employ the spouse of someone who is suing us.  Similarly, if we terminated an individual and he later sued us for discrimination, could we refuse to hire his adult children if they sought employment with our company? Answer→