Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) unanimously ruled that under Title VII, an employee is legally protected against retaliation for speaking about harassment during a company’s investigation of a sexual harassment claim, even if the employee did not make the initial claim triggering the investigation. (See Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., No. 06-1595.) The Court reversed the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal, which had held that responding to questions during an investigation does not constitute “opposing” a claim as required by anti-retaliation law.
In Crawford, Crawford, a 30-year employee of a Tennesee school system, was interviewed during an investigation about the conduct of Hughes, the employee relations director(!), after someone else complained. She said he had grabbed his crotch, put it up to her window repeatedly, and once went into her office, grabbed her head, and pulled it to his crotch.
The investigation resulted in no action against Hughes; however, it did result in the firing of Ms. Crawford and two others claiming harassment. While the school district claimed Ms. Crawford had been embezzling, she denied this claim, and it was never pursued legally.
Crawford is also notable for introducing my new favorite phrase, “louche goings-on,” which Justice Souter used to describe Hughes’ alleged wrongdoing.