Does it violate the law for an employer to take adverse action against a third person who associated with an employee that files a Charge of Discrimination or otherwise seeks the protection of the law? AND, how close must the association be between the employee and the third person?
Employer reprisals against a third party can constitute actionable retaliation under the law where a reasonable worker could be dissuaded from engaging in protected activity because a third party might be treated adversely. Where the third party is adversely treated, s/he may maintain a retaliation claim against the employer if s/he is an “aggrieved person” that “falls within the ‘zone of interests’ sought to be protected by the statutory provision whose violation forms the legal basis for his complaint.”
The Supreme Court refused to adopt a categorical rule regarding how close a relationship must be between the employee engaging in protected activities and the third party who is the target of reprisal. The Court noted it adopted a broad standard for retaliation claims and that standard requires examination of the context of all relevant facts and circumstances including the nature of the relationship between an employee and a third party. As such, the Court declined to identify a fixed class of relationships for which third-party reprisals are unlawful.
The third party, in order to sue the employer for unlawful must also fall within the ‘zone of interests’ sought to be protected. The “zone of interests” test will not be met “if the plaintiff’s interests are so marginally related to or inconsistent with the purposes implicit in the statute that it cannot reasonably be assumed that Congress intended to permit the suit.”
Allowing suit by plaintiffs with an interest “arguably [sought] to be protected by the statutes,” is justified whereas plaintiffs who might technically be injured in an Article III sense but whose interests are “unrelated to the statutory prohibitions” in Title VII are prohibited from maintaining suit.
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