Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Thompson v. North American Stainless, which could significantly alter the scope of protection against workplace retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Specifically, the Thompson case presented the following question to the Court: Does Title VII's anti-retaliation provision prohibit an employer from retaliating against a third party (e.g., a spouse, family member, or fianc?e) who is closely associated with an employee who complains of discrimination even though the third party personally has not engaged in protected activity?
Three years after Eric Thompson began working at North American Stainless, Miriam Regalado became employed there as well. Thompson and Regalado began dating, eventually became engaged and, later, married. In September 2002, while engaged to Thompson, Regalado filed a charge of discrimination against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging gender discrimination. On February 13, 2003, the EEOC advised North America Stainless of Regalado's charge. Less than a month later, on March 7, 2004, Thompson was terminated by the company. Thompson claimed North American Stainless terminated him in retaliation for his then-fianc?e's pending charge of discrimination. The company contended that the termination was due to Thompson's on-going performance issues.