6th Circuit Backs EEOC’s “Expansive Definition” Of Protected Activity in Title VII Retaliation Case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission scored a victory at the federal appeals court level last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the commission’s “expansive definition” of what constitutes opposing discriminatory conduct was entitled to great deference.

Applying the commission’s standards, an employee’s demand that a supervisor cease his or her harassing conduct is protected activity under Title VII’s retaliation clause, the Cincinnati-based appeals court held.

The court ruled in EEOC’s lawsuit against a High Point, N.C.-based logistics services provider for sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC had charged the company–New Breed Logistics–with subjecting three temporary female employees to sexual harassment and retaliation against them for complaining, as well as against a male employee who supported the women’s claims.

“If an employee demands that his/her supervisor stop engaging in this unlawful practice – i.e., resists or confronts the supervisor’s unlawful harassment–the opposition clause’s broad language confers protection to this conduct” as well, the appeals court held.

The court’s endorsement of the EEOC position was part of a ruling affirming a jury’s award of $1.5 million against the company for the harassment and retaliation.

Read more.

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