Monday, June 24, 2013

University of Tex. Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar

Title VII, Civil Rights, discrimination against an employee: respondent filed suit, alleging two discrete Title VII violations. First, he alleged that Levine’s racially and religiously motivated harassment had resulted in his constructive discharge from the University, in violation of 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a), which prohibits an employer from discriminat­ing against an employee “because of such individual’s race, color, re­ligion, sex, and national origin” (referred to here as status-based dis­crimination). Second, he claimed that Fitz’s efforts to prevent the Hospital from hiring him were in retaliation for complaining about Levine’s harassment, in violation of §2000e–3(a), which prohibits employer retaliation “because an employee has opposed . . . an un­lawful employment practice . . . or . . . made a Title VII charge.” The jury found for respondent on both claims. The Fifth Circuit vacated as to the constructive-discharge claim, but affirmed as to the retaliation finding on the theory that retaliation claims brought un­der §2000e–3(a)—like §2000e–2(a) status-based claims—require only a showing that retaliation was a motivating factor for the adverse employment action, not its but-for cause, see §2000e–2(m). And it found that the evidence supported a finding that Fitz was motivated, at least in part, to retaliate against respondent for his complaints about Levine.
Held: Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to tradi­tional principles of but-for causation, not the lessened causation test stated in §2000e–2(m).
(a) In defining the proper causation standard for Title VII retalia­tion claims, it is presumed that Congress incorporated tort law’s cau­sation in fact standard—i.e., proof that the defendant’s conduct did in fact cause the plaintiff’s injury—absent an indication to the contrary in the statute itself. See Meyer v. Holley, 537 U. S. 280, 285. An em­ployee alleging status-based discrimination under §2000e–2 need not show “but-for” causation. It suffices instead to show that the motive to discriminate was one of the employer’s motives, even if the em­ployer also had other, lawful motives for the decision. This principle is the result of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228, and the ensuing Civil Rights Act of 1991 (1991 Act), which substituted a new burden-shifting framework for the one endorsed by Price Waterhouse. As relevant here, that Act added a new subsection to §2000e–2, providing that “an unlawful employment practice is established when the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice,” §2000e–2(m).
Also relevant here is this Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 557 U. S. 167, 176, which interprets the Age Dis­crimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) phrase “because of . . . age,” 29 U. S. C. §623(a)(1). Gross holds two insights that inform the analysis of this case. The first is textual and concerns the proper interpretation of the term “because” as it relates to the principles of causation underlying both §623(a) and §2000e–3(a). The second is the significance of Congress’ structural choices in both Title VII itself and the 1991 Act.
(b) Title VII’s antiretaliation provision appears in a different sec­tion from its status-based discrimination ban. And, like §623(a)(1), the ADEA provision in Gross, §2000e–3(a) makes it unlawful for an employer to take adverse employment action against an employee “because” of certain criteria. Given the lack of any meaningful textu­al difference between §2000e–3(a) and §623(a)(1), the proper conclu­sion is that Title VII retaliation claims require proof that the desire to retaliate was the but-for cause of the challenged employment ac­tion. Respondent and the United States maintain that §2000e–2(m)’s motivating-factor test applies, but that reading is flawed. First, it is inconsistent with the provision’s plain language, which addresses on­ly race, color, religion, sex, and national origin discrimination and says nothing about retaliation. Second, their reading is inconsistent with the statute’s design and structure. Congress inserted the moti­vating-factor provision as a subsection within §2000e–2, which deals only with status-based discrimination. The conclusion that Congress acted deliberately in omitting retaliation claims from §2000–2(m) is reinforced by the fact that another part of the 1991 Act, §109, ex­pressly refers to all unlawful employment actions. See EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 499 U. S. 244, 256. Third, the cases they rely on, which state the general proposition that Congress’ enactment of a broadly phrased antidiscrimination statute may signal a concomitant intent to ban retaliation against individuals who oppose that discrim­ination, see, e.g., CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, 553 U. S. 442, 452–453; Gómez-Pérez v. Potter, 553 U. S. 474, do not support the quite different rule that every reference to race, color, creed, sex, or nationality in an antidiscrimination statute is to be treated as a syn­onym for “retaliation,” especially in a precise, complex, and exhaus­tive statute like Title VII. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which contains seven paragraphs of detailed description of the practices constituting prohibited discrimination, as well as an ex­press antiretaliation provision, and which was passed only a year be­fore §2000e–2(m)’s enactment, shows that when Congress elected to address retaliation as part of a detailed statutory scheme, it did so clearly.
(c) The proper interpretation and implementation of §2000e–3(a) and its causation standard are of central importance to the fair and responsible allocation of resources in the judicial and litigation sys­tems, particularly since retaliation claims are being made with ever ­increasing frequency. Lessening the causation standard could also contribute to the filing of frivolous claims, siphoning resources from efforts by employers, agencies, and courts to combat workplace har­assment.
(d) Respondent and the Government argue that their view would be consistent with longstanding agency views contained in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance manual, but the manual’s explanations for its views lack the persuasive force that is a necessary precondition to deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U. S. 134, 140. Respondent’s final argument—that if §2000e– 2(m) does not control, then the Price Waterhouse standard should—is foreclosed by the 1991 Act’s amendments to Title VII, which displaced the Price Waterhouse framework. 674 F. 3d 448, vacated and remanded. (U.S.S.Ct, 24.06.2013, University of Tex. Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, J. Kennedy).

Titre VII de la loi fédérale sur les droits civils : discrimination par l’employeur  à l’encontre d’un employé : dans cette affaire, le recourant formule deux plaintes contre son employeur. Selon la première, il aurait été victime de harcèlement et d’un licenciement en raison de sa race et de sa religion (en l’espèce c’est l’employé qui a donné sa démission, on parle alors de « constructive discharge »). Selon la seconde, il aurait été victime par l’employeur de mesures de représailles : l’employeur aurait agi pour éviter qu’il puisse continuer d’œuvrer au sein d’un hôpital (il existe un accord entre l’employeur, une université, et l’hôpital, selon lequel les universitaires du domaine médical sont en priorité engagés par l’hôpital). Pour juger du mérite de ces deux plaintes, la Cour décide, ou plutôt rappelle, que deux tests différents s’appliquent suivant que le comportement reproché à l’employeur est direct comme dans le premier cas, ou indirect comme dans le second. Dans le premier cas, même si le comportement répréhensible n’est pas uniquement motivé par des considérations liées à la race ou à la religion, il suffit que la race ou la religion ait joué un rôle dans le comportement critiqué pour que le Titre VII soit violé. Il en va différemment dans le second cas : pour que le comportement de l’employeur ne soit pas admissible sous l’angle du Titre VII, il faut que la partie du comportement motivée par des considérations de race, de religion, ait suffi à entraîner les représailles prohibées. Peu importe dans ce cas que le comportement de l’employeur soit en outre motivé par d’autres raisons. En effet, dans le premier cas, le Titre VII mentionne expressément la race, la couleur, la religion, le sexe, et l’origine, mais pas les représailles. (La loi peut prévoir des exceptions s’agissant du second cas et prévoir que la race, la couleur, la religion, ou l’origine, même si elle n’est pas l’unique cause du comportement dont la partie se plaint, permet de l’emporter dans le cadre d’une action pour représailles fondée sur le Titre VII).

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