Dallas, Texas (WiredPRNews.com) — The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply not only to employees who speak out about discrimination on their own initiative but also to employees who answer questions during an employer’s internal investigation. Crawford v. Metro. Gov’t, No. 06-1595, 555 U.S. __, available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/06-1595.pdf (Jan. 26, 2009).
Metropolitan Government conducted an internal investigation to determine if a supervisor sexually harassed its employees. When questioned, Crawford, a thirty-year employee, confirmed that she had witnessed inappropriate behavior and described several instances of harassment directed at her by the accused supervisor. The company ultimately did not discipline the supervisor. Instead, it discharged Crawford, allegedly for embezzlement, shortly thereafter. Crawford sued under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision. This provision prohibits an employer from terminating an employee because the employee opposed a practice made unlawful by Title VII. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer, holding that Crawford could not show she “opposed” discrimination because she had not instigated a complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
The Court reversed the summary judgment. It rejected the notion that an employee must actively initiate or pursue a matter in order to “oppose” discriminatory behavior. Instead, it held that a person can “oppose” discrimination by responding to questions during an employer’s investigation.
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