Retaliation: Critical Legal Thinking Case Study


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Critical Legal Thinking Case Study

In this case, Miriam Regalado files a sex discrimination charge against North American Stainless (NAS). Her fiancé Eric Thompson is later fired and proceeds to file a charge against NAS for alleged third party retaliation. He claims that he was fired in retaliation because his fiancée had filed a case against the company.

The U.S. District Court and the U.S Court of Appeal rule that Thompson is not protected by Title VII as third party claims are not permitted. The U.S. Supreme Court however rules in his favor, stating that Thompson is protected under Title VII and that employers should not perform actions aimed at dissuading a worker from filing or supporting a discrimination charge.

Retaliation claims are allowed under Title VII in a bid to protect employees from unlawful termination, based on an action that is protected by federal law. This also includes third party retaliation which encompasses protection of a close friend, colleague, relative, partner or other relation from termination for being associated with the person in question.

The law recognizes that an employer may terminate an individual related to the affected person as a form of ‘punishment’ and in a bid to dissuade them from making a claim or supporting discrimination charge and thus seeks to protect such individuals. The absence of such a law would make employees susceptible to unlawful termination for being involved in activities that are protected under the law such as filing for discrimination or supporting violation of such endeavors. Employee relations would also be at risk of termination without any fault. (Nacua, 2006).

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North American Stainless was unethical in its decision to fire Thompson and he should not have been fired just because Regalado was his fiancé. The case however does not clearly state the reason for Thompson’s dismissal, leading to a question of whether he may have been fired for a different reason other than retaliation.

This case sets precedence for increased possibility of employers being sued for retaliation following firing other relations such as girlfriends, boyfriends, co-workers, relatives and friends. The decision by the Supreme Court makes it clear that an individual can file a retaliation claim if he is fired due to activities, protected under the law, that a person they are related to is involved in.

On the other hand, the possibility of being sued may decrease because employers are now more aware of the risk of retaliation based on this case. It therefore means that they would be more cautious when dismissing staff.  

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