In April of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments in the case of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Naiel Nassar. The question before the Court involves the required level of proof a plaintiff must show in a Title VII retaliation claim. In that particular type of claim, a plaintiff must prove the following things:
- That the employee participated in a “protected activity”; for instance, participation in a discrimination proceeding or simply opposing discrimination.
- The employee was subjected to an adverse employment action in retaliation for the protected activity.
It is important that the employee/plaintiff show that there is a connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. The Supreme Court is currently examining just how much of a connection there must be.
Background of the Nassar Case
Naiel Nassar was an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). His direct supervisor overly scrutinized his work and made several derogatory comments regarding his race, including stating that “Middle Easterners are Lazy” in his presence. The prejudicial behavior caused Nassar to resign and accept a job as a doctor with Parkland. UTSW then blocked his new position, stating the University had the right to fill Parkland positions with its own faculty, and Parkland withdrew the offer. Nassar sued, stating that his resignation was a constructive discharge and that the blocking of his new position was in part in retaliation for his opposition to discrimination at UTSW. The jury awarded Nassar a large amount of money, and UTSW has appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
Arguing for Different Standards
UTSW lawyers argued that a plaintiff must prove that the adverse action (here, blocking his new position) was solely driven by retaliation and not for any other reason. Nassar’s attorney argued that the Title VII retaliation provision allows mixed motives behind the adverse action, and retaliation must only be one of them. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its decision, though if it finds in favor of UTSW, retaliation claims may become much harder to prove in court.
Contact an Experienced Employment Attorney
The attorneys of Makarem & Associates are dedicated to helping our clients recover for unfair employment practices and have extensive experience in the field of employment law. Our lawyers’ excellence has been regularly recognized by Super Lawyers, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, Advocate Magazine, Cal Lawyer and CAALA, Consumer Attorney Association of Los Angeles. Call us today at 310-312-0299 to discuss your claim.