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Supreme Court urged to overturn workforce-related decision

March 12, 2013

The AHA yesterday joined The Equal Employment Advisory Council and National Federation of Independent Business in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, which relieved an employee of the burden to prove that unlawful retaliation was the sole reason for an adverse employment decision affecting that employee. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the groups said the decision conflicts with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and is irreconcilable with existing Supreme Court precedent. “An employer should not be held legally responsible for alleged workplace retaliation – and subject to liability for compensatory and punitive damages – where the plaintiff is unable to establish a direct, causal connection between his protected conduct and [the adverse action],” they wrote. According to the brief, the federal appeals court ruling would permit an employee to sustain a retaliation claim against an employer even if the employee can show only that a legally prohibited reason was one possible explanation for the employer’s decision, and would likely preclude summary judgment even in cases where the evidence of discrimination is weak or nonexistent. Retaliation cases are an increasing source of Title VII litigation, and “frivolous mixed-motive claims divert attention and resources away from the development of proactive corporate nondiscrimination and anti-retaliation measures,” the brief notes.