Tennessee Sexual Harassment Suit before Supreme Court Expected to Expand Retaliation Protections for All Workers

The U.S. Supreme Court, whose 2008-09 term began last week, announced this week its sympathy for a Nashville, Tennessee employee who filed a Title VII anti-retaliation lawsuit (workplace anti-discrimination protections) when her employer fired her allegedly for testifying about her sexual harassment by her boss. The Court hinted that it intends to expand sexual discrimination protections, this positive action after so many absurd and hurtful workplace law decisions from the Court the past eight years, including Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Co.

This historic civil rights case, Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., 06-1595, arose when a payroll coordinator for Nashville, Vicky Crawford, was fired in 2003 after 30 years of dedicate employment. The discriminated Tennessee employee mentioned during an investigation instigated by another female employee that she had been subject to unwanted sexual advances by her male superior. When Metro officials in subsequent investigations asked for details of sexual harassment, Crawford reported that the harasser in the same Tennessee department had grabbed his crotch in front of her multiple times, asking to see her breasts, and had once forced her head towards his groin. But Crawford had not filed an official sexual harassment complaint.

When both Crawford and the harassed woman filing the sexual harassment complaint were fired a few months later, Crawford took what she felt to be workplace retaliation (click for more on Tennessee retaliation law) to federal court. Yet while her harasser remained employed by Nashville and Davidson County and she was the one being punished for doing right, the circuit court decided against Crawford.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does allow for limited anti-retaliation protections but lower courts (including the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs appeals in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee) have interpreted Title VII’s anti-retaliation provisions to only apply to those directly affected by and filing a discrimination or sexual harassment charge.

Click hear to read more about Tennessee discrimination law.

If your Tennessee employer has sexually harassed you or has let your age, race, religion, gender, or other factor external to your work performance determine your pay, decide who is promoted, or is otherwise guilty of Tennessee workplace discrimination, Higgins, Himmelberg & Piliponis wants to help. Call our Nashville law offices at (615) 353-0930 or fill out our Tennessee employment law attorney form for a free initial consultation with an employment law attorney experience in Title VII discrimination lawsuits.

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