Supreme Court will finally decide what constitutes an "adverse employment action."

The Supreme Court granted cert yesterday in a Title VII case, White v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co., 364 F.3d 789, 93 FEP 1011 (6th Cir. 2004) (en banc), on what degree of injury an employer's action must inflict to pass the threshold of "adverse employment action" in a retaliation case. For more than 40 years, federal law has prohibited employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination on the job. But neither Congress, which included the anti-retaliation protection in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nor the Supreme Court has ever defined "retaliation."On Monday, the justices agreed to provide the definition, accepting a case that began in a Memphis rail yard when the only woman working in the maintenance department there complained about sexual harassment by her supervisor.Within 10 days, the woman, Sheila White, was transferred from her assignment operating a forklift to the less desirable position, within the same job classification, of working outdoors on the tracks.Three months later, after she filed a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, her employer, the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company, suspended her without pay. After a union grievance, she was restored to the payroll with back pay after 37 days.The question for the court is whether the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, correctly concluded that those events amounted to the type of retaliation that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits. The appeals court upheld a jury award of $43,250 in compensatory damages to Ms. White. Here is the Sixth Circuit's opinion: White v. Burlington Northern (6th Cir en banc 04/14/2004)Sexual Harassment, Pregnancy Discrimination, Age Discrimination, San Antonio, Employment Lawyer