Eric Thompson was working as an engineer for North American Stainless when his fiancee filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit against the company. Thompson soon found himself fired. The company claimed his performance was lacking, but Thompson had good evaluations and raises over the years that proved otherwise.
Interestingly enough, Thompson lost his case in both the U.S. District Court and a federal appeals court, with both courts claiming that protections against retaliation applied only to the person who files a discrimination complaint (in this case, the fiancee). However, the Supreme Court disagreed. Justice Scalia, writing for the court, said:
"We think it obvious that a reasonable worker might be dissuaded from filing a complaint if she knew that her fiance would be fired."
As an aside, the fiancee's discrimination complaint was investigated by the EEOC, which found no basis for the charge.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.