Following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, employers face potential plaint of unlawful discrimination), but also by employees who have a close relationship with whoever engages in protected activity. The Court said the fiance of an employee who filed a discrimination charge could bring her own distinct retaliation claim. Even before this decision, retaliation was the leading category among all EEOC charges filed. That trend now seems certain to continue.
The decision sounds like a warning for employers because, among other things, it does not define precisely what relationship is necessary to assert a retaliation claim. Thus, relatives or even friends of employees who engage in protected activity could bring their own claims if they experience actions such as demotion, discipline, or termination. Keep this in mind when you contemplate taking any such actions.