Court Hears Discrimination Case

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

E.J. Graff does a very good job explaining Burlington Northern v. White, a case currently before the Supreme Court that will basically decide how much protection to afford whistleblowers who speak out against workplace discrimination. Here’s the basic dilemma:

Different appeals courts have come to different conclusions on how you define retaliation. The Sixth Circuit declared that “materially adverse” was the standard, and that what happened to White [i.e., transferred to a different job and being suspended for 37 days without pay for speaking out against gender discrimination] counted under that standard.

Other circuits have said that it’s only retaliation if it involves an “ultimate employment decision” like failing to hire, failing to promote, or firing. Still others stand with the little gal: Any action that is “reasonably likely to deter” you from reporting discrimination — say, a “lateral transfer” — counts as retaliation, and you can sue.

Judging from the oral arguments, Graff reports, the Supreme Court will probably rule with White and set somewhat broad standards on what employers aren’t allowed to do to retaliate. Interestingly enough, Scalia will probably rule against the employers, while Roberts and Alito will likely side with the company—more evidence for the idea that the White House ultimately nominated the people it did primarily with business interests in mind.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend