U.S. Supreme Court

Case Status


Docket Number



2012 Term

Oral Argument Date

April 24, 2013


Questions Presented

Whether Title VII’s retaliation provision and similarly worded statutes require a plaintiff to prove but-for causation (i.e., that an employer would not have taken an adverse employment action but for an improper motive), or instead require only proof that the employer had a mixed motive (i.e., that an improper motive was one of multiple reasons for the employment action).

Case Updates

Supreme Court holds Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation

June 24, 2013

The Supreme Court held that Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation, not the lessened causation test stated in §2000e–2(m).

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

March 11, 2013

NCLC urged the Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that held plaintiffs suing for workplace retaliation under Title VII need only prove that retaliation was one of any number of factors in the challenged employment decision. In this case, the respondent resigned from his faculty position after allegedly being harassed by a Department head. After he tendered his resignation, the affiliated clinic where he was offered a job withdrew its offer and the respondent filed suit alleging retaliation for his discrimination complaints.

NCLC argued in its amicus brief that the Fifth Circuit's decision deepens an already persistent conflict in the circuit courts regarding the extent to which the mixed-motive framework is available in non-Title VII discrimination cases. Title VII's motivating factor test applies only to cases of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and does not extend to causes of action for unlawful retaliation. NCLC argued that plaintiffs suing for unlawful retaliation cannot proceed under a mixed-motives theory, but rather must prove that retaliation was the “but-for” reason for the adverse employment decision. NCLC warned that permitting Title VII retaliation plaintiffs to pursue claims under a mixed-motive theory will impose significant costs on employers because it will force employers to settle baseless lawsuits to avoid the time and expense of trials and to implement unnecessary policies that will chill legitimate business decision.

Cert. petition granted

January 18, 2013

U.S. Chamber urges Supreme Court to review Title VII retaliation claims

November 19, 2012

Click here to view the Chamber's brief.

Case Documents