U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number



2005 Term

Oral Argument Date

April 17, 2006


Questions Presented

1. Whether an employer may be held liable for retaliatory discrimination under Title VII for any "materially adverse change in the terms of employment" (including a
temporary suspension rescinded by the employer with full back pay or an inconvenient reassignment, as the court below held); for any adverse treatment that was "reasonably likely to deter" the plaintiff from engaging in protected activity (as the Ninth Circuit holds); or only for an "ultimate employment decision" (as two other courts of appeals hold).

2. Whether a plaintiff, whose evidence on liability is deemed sufficient by a court of appeals, is permitted a stand-alone retrial on punitive damages under a mere preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, rather than a clear-and-convincingevidence standard.

Case Updates

Supreme Court addresses definition of adverse employment action

June 22, 2006

The Supreme Court held that actions taken by an employer that do not directly impact the terms and conditions of an employee’s employment can be retaliatory if the actions are materially adverse to the employee.

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

January 23, 2006

NCLC asked the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling holding employers at fault for changing an employee’s assigned job responsibilities. The case involves a Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. employee who was temporarily suspended from company service, pending investigation, for not accepting changes in assigned job responsibilities. The employee asserted that Title VII protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to such action. The lower court held the broad view that job reassignment under temporary suspension constituted an unlawful retaliation by the employer. NCLC argues that Title VII anti-retaliation section should not be used to impinge on management’s traditional prerogatives to assign work.

Case Documents