Monday, June 24, 2013

BREAKING: SCOTUS decides on but-for causation standard for retaliation under Title VII

In a busy, end-of-term day at the Supreme Court, the Court has issued its decision in University of Tex. S.W. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar. In this 5-4, partisan-line decision, the Court decided that but-for causation is the appropriate standard for retaliation claims under Title VII.

Thus, going forward, an employee cannot succeed on a Title VII retaliation claim without proving that the employer would not have taken the adverse employment action but for an improper, retaliatory motive.

Needless to say, this is huge win for employers by narrowing an employee’s likelihood of proving retaliation. It eliminates mixed-motive retaliation. Retaliation must be the cause for an employee to prove retaliation.

Aside from its legal implications, this case is significant because it is the first retaliation case that this Court has decided in favor of the employer.

Perhaps the most curious part of the opinion, however, comes from Justice Ginsberg, who calls for passage of a “Civil Rights Restoration Act” in light of this opinion and the opinion in Vance. Given the political climate in Congress, I’d say this is unlikely. The drumbeats of employment-law reform, however, will begin to beat loudly from the left.

The Court’s opinion is available for download here.