The U.S. Chamber filed an amicus brief in an Eleventh Circuit case involving the application of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision to certain conduct by human resources professionals. Plaintiff, a human resource professional whose role was to resolve employee disputes short of litigation, began referring co-workers to a lawyer so they could file discrimination charges against the company. The company terminated her, concluding that plaintiff’s encouragement of litigation by other employees against the company left her unable to perform a core function of her job. Plaintiff brought a retaliation claim under Title VII, arguing that her demonstrated inability to perform her job duties should be not be considered when determining whether such conduct is protected by the statute.
The Chamber’s brief argued that such a rule is incompatible with the statute’s causation requirement, which prohibits employers from taking material adverse actions against employees “because” she opposes an employment practice unlawful under Title VII, but does not prevent employers from discharging an employee based on the unreasonable manner in which she opposes unlawful practices. Further, the brief explained that the rule urged by plaintiff and the EEOC would not only destabilize settled law both inside and outside the Eleventh Circuit, but would also threaten the aims of Title VII by undermining cooperation and voluntary compliance, as well as the goal that litigation should be a last resort—interests of tremendous significance to the American business community.
Neal D. Mollen, Carson H. Sullivan, and Jane M. Brittan of Paul Hastings LLP served as counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center.