Dobbs: Congress Stiffs Working Americans
Starbucks Tip-Sharing Case Gets Ruling

The Burlington Buzz

This is off topic for a wage and hour blog, but most wage and hour lawyers also engage in other kinds of employment related litigation, so we have to at least mention the U.S. Supreme Court's recision landmark decision in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, which held that employers may be held liable on retaliation claims for a wide variety of retaliatory acts. The elements of a retaliation claim are three-fold: (i) an employee engaging in a protect activity; (ii) an employer taking an "adverse employment action" and (iii) a causal link between the first two elements.

What is an  "adverse employment action?" The SCOTUS has now informed us that a plaintiff must show that a reasonable employee would have found the action materially adverse, which means it well might have "dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination." In this case, a 37 day unpaid suspension, later converted to a paid suspension was an "adverse employment action," as was an assignment to more physically difficult job duties.

We were not surprised by the ruling. We once took a case in which the employee was told that if he engaged in the protected activity, he would be transferred to Chicago, where he would "spend the winter working 20 stories up on a cold I-beam" for a construction company. He stood his ground, but resigned in the face of the threatened transfer. The case settled for a reasonably handsome sum.

Anyhow, we took a long weekend and don't much feel like blogging today, so we'll point you in the direction of some other good legal blogs that feature recent commentary on the case, such as SHRH, Nathan Newman, the SCOTUSblog, and the Workplace Prof Blog, along with some news media whose articles included some interesting quotes from practitioners, including: The Houston Chronicle Ruling widens ability to sue; the Chicago Tribune High Court Widens Protection for Workers Against retaliation; the San Francisco Chronicle Ruling protects workers from retaliation Firms can't punish employees who file bias complaints; MSNBA US workers win more power in job discrimination lawsuits; the Seattle Times Court makes it easier for workers to sue; the NY Times Supreme Court Gives Employees Broader Protection Against Retaliation in Workplace.


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