Tag Archives: Title VII

Office Conflict

Under Title VII, Is An Employer Liable for the Harassment of A Plaintiff Employee By a Co-Worker?

The Supreme Court has indicated that an employer is liable under Title VII if there is harassment of an employee by a co-worker, but only if  the employer did not control the conditions at work.

This changes if the co-worker is a supervisor, according to a recent Supreme Court decision.

Who is a supervisor?   For purposes of Title VII, it is a person empowered by the employer to take a tangible employment action against the plaintiff employee.

In a case involving a supervisor, in order to hold an employer liable, a plaintiff employee would need to prove that the supervisor’s harassment amounted to a “tangible employment action,” i.e., a significant change such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, etc.  In such a case, the employer would be strictly liable.

In other supervisor cases under Title VII (those in which there was no “tangible employment action”), the employer may be able to establish an affirmative defense to liability if (1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassing behavior and (2) that the plaintiff employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities that the employer provided.

For more information or for a consultation regarding your legal issues, please contact McCollum & Associates, LLC, at (301) 864-6070www.jmlaw.net, or jmccollum@jmlaw.net.

(Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Third-party Retaliation Under Title VII

The Supreme Court held that the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extend to those who claim third-party retaliation.

The wife of Plaintiff filed a gender discrimination claim with the  United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against the subsidiary of a company. Soon after, the company fired Plaintiff. Plaintiff sued for retaliation. The District Court, however, granted summary judgment for the company. The district court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not permit third-party retaliation claims. On appeal the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to sue for retaliation since he had not engaged in any activity protected by the statute.

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that Plaintiff’s firing stated a claim of unlawful retaliation. The Court held that the “person aggrieved” term used in Title VII incorporates the zone of interest test of the Administrative Procedure Act and that Plaintiff was a “person aggrieved” because Title VII’s purpose is to protect employees from their employers’ unlawful actions.

For more information or for a consultation regarding your legal issues, please contact McCollum & Associates, LLC, at (301) 864-6070 or jmccollum@jmlaw.net.


United States Has Not Consented to Being Sued in State Court Under Title VII

The United States Court of Appeals has concluded (2-1) that the United States and the Secretary of Homeland Security, a federal agency, did not consent to be sued in state court in a Title VII discrimination action.  The majority opinion reached its conclusion despite the unanimous Supreme Court decision in Yellow Freight Sys., Inc. v. Donnelly, 494 U.S.  820 (1990), that state courts have concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts over Title VII actions.  Stay tuned.  If not now, the Supreme Court may have to weigh in on this issue.

For more information or for a consultation regarding your legal issues, please contact McCollum & Associates, LLC, at (301) 864-6070 or jmccollum@jmlaw.net.