SW Legal studies in Business

Employee Who Opposes Discrimination Due Protection against Retaliation

Supreme Court held that an employee who did not report sex harassment, but, during an internal investigation stated that she had been subject to harassment and was fired, has the right to proceed based on a claim of retaliation.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Retaliation; Opposition Clause; Participation Clause

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

During an internal investigation at the Metro (Nashville) School District into rumors of sexual harassment by the employee relations director (Hughes), Crawford reported that Hughes had sexually harassed her. Crawford was soon fired for alleged embezzlement. She sued for violation of Title VII, which makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who “has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice” by Title VII. This is called the “opposition clause.” The trial court dismissed her suit and the appeals court upheld the dismissal. Crawford appealed to the Supreme Court.


Reversed and remanded. The opposition clause of the antiretaliation provision of Title VII applies to Crawford. She spoke out about discrimination, not of her own initiative, but in answering questions during an employer’s investigation about complaints of sexual harassment. An employee can oppose discrimination in the workplace and, thereby, come under the protection of the antiretaliation provision by responding to questions about discrimination. Title VII does protect an employee who reports discrimination, but not an employee who reports it when asked about it. Hence, Crawford’s case can proceed.

Citation Crawford v. Metro. Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., 129 S.Ct. 846 (2009)

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