What a mess.  I do not know anything more about this than is stated in this article.  But I must say, it is not with out precedence that someone who speaks out finds that in retaliation their employer tries to impugn their character and destroy their reputation.   Whistleblowers  in some situations, have been set up by their employers.  Even if found innocent of those accusations, there are usually continuing damages to the employee.  -GFS

 

January 30, 2009

Editorial

Workers Who Speak Out

The Supreme Court issued a strong ruling this week in favor of employees who are retaliated against for complaining about being harassed. The justices unanimously sided with a woman who was fired after answering questions in her company’s investigation of a sexual harassment claim. The ruling should give more employees the courage to speak up when they see civil rights laws being broken in their workplaces.

Vicky Crawford, who worked for the Nashville school system, was questioned by her employer as part of an internal investigation of the system’s employee relations director. Ms. Crawford told an investigator of several instances of sexually harassing conduct.

At the end of the inquiry, the employee relations director kept his job. Ms. Crawford was fired for embezzlement, although the charges against her were not pursued. She sued, charging that her firing was retaliatory.

The school system argued that Ms. Crawford was not covered by the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because she did not file the complaint against the employee relations director. She simply answered questions that were put to her. Ms. Crawford insisted that her participation in the internal investigation was enough to win her protection.

The Supreme Court has taken a hard line on retaliation against workers who complain of civil rights violations. In 2006, it ruled 9-to-0 in favor of a woman who was transferred to less desirable duties after complaining of sexual harassment. The justices overturned a standard many courts had used that made it almost impossible for workers to win a retaliation case unless they were fired.

This week, the court went further, ruling that even employees who merely answer questions as part of an internal investigation are protected against retaliation. Justice David Souter, in an opinion joined by six of his colleagues, noted that Title VII protects workers who have “opposed any practice” that the act makes illegal. By answering her employer’s questions as she did, Justice Souter said, Ms. Crawford had opposed sexual harassment, and was therefore covered by the law.

If workers had to worry about retaliation, civil rights laws would lose much of their force. The Supreme Court, in its second major ruling on retaliation in three years, has made clear that if employers are going to punish anyone, it must be the employees who break the law — not the ones who speak out against them.

 

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