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Monday, January 26, 2009

Court Says ‘No’ to Employer Retaliation

Well, 2009 is certainly off to a great start for working women. The House and the Senate have both passed versions of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. And today, the Supreme Court released its decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, which stated that an employee is protected by Title VII from retaliation by his or her employer when cooperating with an internal discrimination investigation.

Vicky Crawford was fired after she answered questions in an internal investigation regarding the conduct of Gene Hughes, the Metro School District’s employee relations director. She told a human resources officer that she had been sexually harassed by Hughes, who, among other things, repeatedly grabbed his crotch in front of her. While the Metro government took no action against Mr. Hughes, Ms. Crawford was fired soon after the investigation was completed.

Writing for the majority, Justice David Souter said that “the question here [was] whether this protection extends to an employee who speaks out about discrimination not on her own initiative, but in answering questions during an employer's internal investigation. We hold that it does.” In a statement released today, AFJ President Nan Aron said “Today’s decision is a victory for workers in the ongoing fight for equality in the workplace. The Court recognized that the law serves to protect those who stand up against discrimination, rather than shield those who stoop to retaliation.”

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