Supreme Court Rules for Workers in Retaliation Case

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, the Supreme Court grants protection to employees who speak out against discrimination in the workplace. Margaret Warner has our story.

MARGARET WARNER: Today's decision involves a Tennessee woman who was fired from her job in the Nashville school district after she cooperated in a sexual harassment investigation of her supervisor. She sued, and today the justices said unanimously that her case may go forward under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Here to tell us more is NewsHour regular Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal.

Marcia, welcome back.

MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, now, flush out the story, would you, of the woman, Ms. Crawford, who originally filed this suit.

MARCIA COYLE: Vicky Crawford was a 30-year employee of the Nashville school district. As you said, she did not initiate the complaints against the school district's employee relations director, but she was interviewed as part of the investigation because her work brought her into contact with him.

When asked, she told the investigator that she had experienced a number of inappropriate acts by the director, including an instance when he grabbed her head and pulled it down to his crotch.

After the investigation was completed, the director was not disciplined, but she and two other women who made statements in the investigation were fired. She filed suit claiming retaliation by the employer for her statements.

So the issue before the court here was whether she was protected under Title VII's provision that prohibits employers from retaliating against a worker who opposes an illegal discriminatory act, here sexual harassment, or, more broadly, is a worker's statement in an internal investigation, can that be considered opposing an illegal discrimination?

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