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Supreme Court decisions will affect workers' ability to sue

One Supreme Court justice was so frustrated by two recent decisions handed down by the Court that she has called upon Congress to overturn the decisions through legislation. The Court acted late last month in such a way that it will now be much harder for American employees to sue their employers for employment discrimination. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appalled by the 5-4 decisions.

Ginsburg argued in her dissents that “Both decisions dilute the strength of Title VII in ways Congress could not have intended.” Essentially, the Court has made it more difficult for workers to enforce their rights both by limiting the scope of the ways in which juries can award wins to workers in retaliation lawsuits and by limiting the kinds of individuals who can be labeled as defendants in discrimination lawsuits.

In the first decision, the Court ruled that juries may only find in favor of workers in retaliation lawsuits if employers would not have mistreated them save for the employer’s intention to retaliate. In the second decision, the Court ruled that unless someone has the authority to hire and fire a worker, he or she may not be considered a supervisor for the purposes of a discrimination lawsuit.

In both cases, the Court has constructed practical impediments to the ability of workers to successfully sue to enforce their rights. It has become more critical than ever that workers facing discrimination consult the expertise of a specialized attorney in order to have a shot at successfully navigating the law and holding their employers accountable for illegal conduct.

Source: Washington Post, “Supreme Court makes it harder to sue businesses for discrimination, retaliation,” June 24, 2013

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