Supreme Court Upholds an Employee's Right to Bring Action if Retaliated Against After Complaining of Racism

In CBOCS West v. Humphries (2008) the United States Supreme Court held that an employee fired after complaining about race discrimination against co-workers could maintain a retaliation suit. This ruling was a surprise to many not only because of the court’s makeup, but also for the fact that many scholars believed that 42 U.S.C. 1981 under which the lawsuit was brought did not apply to retaliation cases. The code section itself does not mention retaliation in response to complaints about race discrimination; however, the justices looked at companions statues i.e. section 1982 and the legislative history of the statute. This ruling makes it possible to employees and ex-employees to now rely on Section 1981 to challenge retaliatory actions by employers when done in reaction to employees’ exercise of a protected activity. California’s Government Code has also codified the right to bring action if retaliated against by an employer.