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Supreme Court Expands Scope of Title VIIs Retaliation Provisions . . . Again

January 30, 2009

By Neal D. Mollen and Derek M. Bottcher

Continuing a string of recent Supreme Court victories for plaintiffs in retaliation cases, a unanimous Court has held that Title VIIs anti-retaliation provision protects employees who oppose discrimination merely by answering questions during an internal harassment investigation initiated by the complaints of a different employee. Crawford v. Metropolitan Govt of Nashville & Davidson County, Tenn., 555 U.S. ___ (Jan. 26, 2009). This interpretation of Title VIIs retaliation protections expands the definition of what it means to oppose workplace discrimination, covering not only those who initiate internal investigations by complaining that they have been mistreated but also those who are drawn into such investigations as witnesses. The case makes it even more imperative that employers have properly drawn and disseminated internal complaint reporting procedures, and that they effectively train managers on the requirements of those policies to ensure that employee complaints of workplace discrimination are appropriately addressed and that any adverse employment actions taken against those involved in employer investigations are fully vetted.

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