Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The Supreme Court of the U.S. today interpreted two federal civil rights laws to protect workers from retaliation for complaining about prohibited discrimination. In CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, the Court held that a post-Civil War era law, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides that "[a]ll persons ... shall have the same right ... to make and enforce contracts ... as is enjoyed by white citizens," allowed former Cracker Barrel assistant manager to sue not only for his own allegedly racially motivated firing but also for alleged retaliation because he had complained about racially discriminatory treatment of a co-worker. In Gomez-Perez v. Potter, the Court held that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act allowed a postal worker to sue for alleged retaliation against her after she filed an administrative ADEA complaint. In both cases Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, and Chief Justice Roberts dissented as well in Gomez-Perez.