The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has filed an amicus brief in an employment case asking the U.S. Supreme Court not to hamper school districts’ abilities to discipline or fire employees.
In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar to be heard on April 24, 2013, the Supreme Court will determine whether an employee can win a discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act if the employer had legitimate business reasons for taking the adverse action.
The case is particularly relevant to public schools, collectively the largest employer in the country. NSBA is asking the Supreme Court to rule that the employee must prove that the employer took adverse action solely out of retaliation for the employee’s prior complaint of discrimination, not because of other legitimate reasons, a standard known as the “but for” test. Under the lower court ruling in the case, an employer must prove that they would have taken the action regardless of any desire to punish the employee for making charges of discrimination. The case centers on an employee of the University of Texas medical school who alleged that the chair of his department blocked his attempt to get a job at a hospital in retaliation for a claim of discrimination the employee had lodged against a supervisor.
“It is important that schools have the ability to discipline or terminate staff for legitimate reasons without fear of costly lawsuits that shift funds away from the classroom,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel.
“The High Court should not permit anti-discrimination laws to be used as a shield by substandard employees seeking to invalidate legitimate employer action for poor performance,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “This standard would result in many more lawsuits, and more legal costs, for already cash-strapped school districts.”