Supreme Court Puts Limits On Title VII Discrimination Suits


U.S. Supreme Court

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Supreme Court issued rulings on two major Title VII cases Monday morning.

In Vance v. Ball State University, the court voted to limit liability for employers in discrimination suits.

Walking into your place of employment should always feel safe, but for some just opening that door, can feel like a major risk.  Title VII discrimination is still a very real thing, and it can apply in a lot of different situations.

Attorney Rebekah McKinney does work in Title VII cases.  She describes the reasoning for the law, “The purpose of Title VII is to prevent discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, religion, national origin.  That type of thing.”

These workplace oversights focus specifically on supervisors.  Now the highest court in the land is limiting who fits that role.

In a modern work environment, it’s much more difficult to figure out who qualifies as a supervisor.  The Supreme Court set out to clear that up.

Now a supervisor must have the power to change your job, with powers like termination, demotion, or reassignment.

If you see discrimination in your workplace, McKinney says you’ll need to watch your actions closely if you intend to fight it, “You’re going to have to follow your procedures.  You’re going to have to make sure if there’s a policy in place to report harassment that you follow that policy and you follow it to a ‘t’.”

The Supreme Court also voted to make retaliation lawsuits more difficult in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar.

The Supreme Court changed the standard for lawsuits where an employee reports they were retaliated against because they reported workplace discrimination.

McKinney explains, before this ruling, “If you could show that retaliation was a motivating factor or one of the causes, then you would be able to proceed with that claim.”

The court decided retaliation as a motivating factor wasn’t enough for a suit, instead it must be a but-for situation.

Motivating factors are reasons you might do something.  A but-for situation is where it wouldn’t have happened but-for the reason in question.

After the court’s ruling – McKinney says it’s incredibly difficult to sue for retaliation, “It makes them have almost an impossible burden of proof, because the employer almost always will be able to come up with some kind of reason for their action.”

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