The U.S. Supreme Court last week decided a case that significantly impacts the legal environment for employers and alters the way employers must make decisions about employees who have complained of discrimination. The case, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, resolved two questions that had divided lower courts concerning the meaning of a law prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who complain of workplace discrimination.

The law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits workplace discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and also bars discrimination against employees who file a lawsuit or administrative charge of discrimination, or testify, assist or participate in a resulting lawsuit, investigation or other proceeding. Such “retaliation” lawsuits have increased in Florida in recent years, are often difficult to defend and can lead to large damage awards against employers.

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