Retaliation: Why an Increase in Claims Does Not Mean the Sky Is Falling
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Sherwyn, David J.D.; Gilman, Gregg
Retaliation, the fastest growing cause of action in discrimination law, has gained considerable attention, following two cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2006 Supreme Court case, White v. Burlington Northern, and the 2009 Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville has made retaliation front-page news. White created legal ambiguities that allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to posture and leave management lawyers without the tools to adequately render legal advice. Crawford expanded the opposition clause, which involves an employee’s resistance to a perceived violation of discrimination statutes. While there’s no indication that either case should result in more plaintiff victories (nor prevent employers from managing their workforce), the cases will, in all likelihood, lead to a further increase in claims. They also could change some management practices, despite causing no major changes in plaintiffs’ abilities to succeed in their claims. Following extensive discussion at the 2008 and 2009 Labor and Employment Law Roundtables, we conducted this analysis to examine the effects of the White and Crawford cases and explain the law surrounding retaliation. Before we address these issues, however, we examine the statistical increase in retaliation claims and hypothesize why these cases are on the rise.
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