In an all too rare unanimous ruling (save for Justice Kagan, who recused herself), the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII extends to employees who are in the “zone of interest” with an employee who has filed a charge of discrimination. The facts and findings follow.
A female employee filed a charge of sex discrimination against her employer. A few weeks later, the employer fired the complainant’s fiancee, who had also been a company employee. The fiancee then filed a retaliation charge with the EEOC and a subsequent lawsuit.
Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, held that a reprisal against a third party such as the fiancee was covered retaliation under Title VII. The Supreme Court further held that the fiancee was an “aggrieved person,” who had standing to sue under Title VII. Justice Scalia pointed out that the text of the anti-retaliation provision is broader than the substantive provision and that any person who comes within the “zone of interest” that the statute seeks to protect can file suit. The Court leaves it to future cases to determine how far this “zone of interest” extends. The case is Thompson v. North American Stainless, No. 09-291.