Why would retaliation against a family member violate the law?
In Thompson v. North American Stainless, the fiance of an employee who filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed that he was fired in retaliation for his fiancee's exercise of her rights under the Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court held that retaliation against a close family member will almost always constitute unlawful retaliation and the fianc? was within the "zone of interests" to be protected by the Act. The Supreme Court declined to define the exact class of individuals who may make such retaliation claims. As such, employers may be vulnerable to retaliation claims from those closely connected to employees who have engaged in protected activity, such as filing claims of discrimination or harassment. Employers, to avoid this expansion of potential liability, will have to be wary about discipline imposed on family members or others in close relationship to the affected employee. As a practical pointer, employers should exercise due diligence and look closely at all the facts before imposing discipline or firing an employee.