The Supreme Court Considers Again the Scope of Title VII's Anti-Retaliation Provision

Posted by on Jan 12, 2009 in Gender Discrimination, Retaliation, Supreme Court

By Tiffanie Benfer, Esq.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month. I think it is quite poetic that on January 9, 2009, the Supreme Court considered Ms. Dawn Martin’s Petition for rehearing, which asks the Court to reconsider whether her termination for reporting a stalker in the workplace falls within the scope of the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII. Ms. Martin was stalked in her workplace, and then was subsequently fired for asking her employer to implement existing security procedures to keep the stalker out of the workplace. If the lower court’s decision is not reversed, women like Ms. Martin will be forced to choose between their safety and their job. The Court previously denied Ms. Martin’s Petition for Certiorari in 2008.
Ms. Martin asks that the Court reconsider her work place stalking case in light of the Court’s consideration of Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. Oral argument in the Crawford matter took place on October 8, 2008, the Court considered: “Does the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act apply to employees fired for participating in an internal investigation of sexual harassment?”

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Late Breaking News — Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Paycheck Fairness Act Move Forward

Posted by on Jan 9, 2009 in Gender Discrimination, Supreme Court

By: Tiffanie Benfer, Esq.
The House of Representatives, that is… Two hours ago, the House of Representatives passed two bills that will help prevent gender based pay discrimination. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act reverses the decision of the Supreme Court, which I wrote about in my first ever entry on this blog. The decision had interpreted the statute of limitations for Title VII so narrowly that it made it impossible in practical terms for those who suffered pay discrimination to seek recourse.
The Paycheck Fairness Act stiffens penalties for gender based pay discrimination. It also addresses a related problem, protecting workers who share pay information with their colleagues from retribution by the employer. This protection is necessary because employers who forbid employees from sharing pay information are effectively preventing the employees from learning about pay discrimination.
These were just the second and third pieces of legislation voted on by the House since it resumed sessions on Tuesday. Last year, the Senate struck down the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It should pass handily in the newly elected Senate.
This looks like a signal for sea change in direction after the conservative Bush years. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court may continue to try to narrowly interpret civil rights legislation, but Congress has sent a strong message – through the ADA Amendments Act (which I previously wrote about) and these new laws – that it will take swift action to undo the damage done by the Court. It will be interesting to see if Congressional action to overturn Supreme Court decisions tempers the “conservative activism” of this Supreme Court the next time it is called on to interpret civil rights legislation.
Here’s a link about the vote:

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Joe the Plumber and Lilly … who?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2008 in Gender Discrimination, Supreme Court

By: Tiffanie Benfer, Esq.
At the last Presidential debate John McCain talked about Joe the Plumber and the media swooned. The anecdote was simple, easily understood, and appealing. So what if the real Joe isn’t really a plumber? Never let the truth get in the way of a good story…
Barack Obama countered with the true story of Lilly Ledbetter, but nobody swooned. “Huh?” was the more common response. Ledbetter’s story doesn’t fit nicely into a sound bite, and it’s got all that darn complexity that comes with the truth, so why should we take the trouble to understand it?
It is worth knowing Lilly Ledbetter’s story because it says something important about employment law and something profound about the Supreme Court. Here’s the Ledbetter story, in a nutshell:

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