Famous Wrongful Termination Cases and Rulings by the Supreme Court
One of the most common reasons a former employee may file a lawsuit against their previous employer is for wrongful termination.
This type of retaliation is common in cases where an employee speaks out against workplace harassment, discrimination, or illegal activity. After voicing a complaint, the employers have been known to retaliate by firing the employee as punishment.
While it’s not always possible to prevent this from happening, federal and state law protects workers against such treatment.
In fact, there are a couple of famous wrongful termination cases and rulings by the Supreme Court that make it easier for a worker to file a claim.
Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.
In December 2006, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic fired Kevin Kasten from his job. According to Kasten, the company retaliated against him for making a complaint about the location of time clocks.
Kasten noticed that the company placed time clocks away from the area where employees put on their required protective gear. This meant that employees couldn’t get paid for their time preparing their equipment.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic argued that Kasten’s complaints weren’t protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because they were oral instead of written.
The District Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the FLSA did not protect verbal complaints.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling in a 6-2 decision, stating that the FLSA protects an employee who files either an oral or written complaint.
Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP
Eric Thompson and his fiancée, Miriam Regalado, both worked for North American Stainless in a manufacturing facility in Kentucky.
In September 2002, Regalado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging gender-based discrimination by her supervisors.
Three weeks after North American Stainless became aware of the charge, they fired Thompson in retaliation. Thompson then filed a complaint, stating that the company violated section 704(a) of Title VII.
Initially, the District Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Thompson’s case since it was a “third-party retaliation claim.”
However, in a unanimous 8-0 the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Title VII’s anti-retaliation provisions cover “a broad range of employer conduct.”
Since North American Stainless fired Thompson to punish Regalado, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they performed an unlawful act under Title VII.
Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders
In August 1998, Nancy Drew Suders quit her dispatcher job with the Pennsylvania State Police. She claimed that sexual harassment from her supervisors was so pervasive that she decided to quit.
Before leaving, her supervisors accused her of theft, put her in handcuffs, and questioned her.
She decided not to file a complaint since the equal opportunity representative in the department was unsympathetic.
Suders then filed a lawsuit in District Court claiming that the discrimination she faced forced her to quit.
The District Court granted a summary judgment to the state police since Suders did not use the department’s internal procedures.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision, stating that the police were directly responsible for her resignation.
Finally, in an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that any employee in a situation where a “reasonable person…would have felt compelled to resign” could file a lawsuit against their employer without filing an internal complaint.
Your Options After Wrongful Termination
As these famous wrongful termination cases demonstrate, you have several rights as a worker.
Whether you are fired, demoted, or forced to quit due to a hostile work environment, there are legal options available to you.
If your employer retaliates against you for making a valid workplace complaint, an experienced employment law attorney can help.