FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

CONTACT: Chris Geidner 614.752.4332 cgeidner@ag.state.oh.us

Ohio Attorney General Leads Multi-State Supreme Court Effort To Protect Employees
Nineteen States and Puerto Rico Urge The U.S. Supreme Court To Protect Employees From Retaliation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and the attorneys general of 18 other states and Puerto Rico, today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that employers cannot retaliate against an employee involved in an employer’s investigation of sexual harassment. The amicus, or “friend of the court,” filing supports a woman who was fired after participating in a company investigation of sexual harassment. The case, Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, addresses whether an employer may fire or demote an employee for participating in an employer’s internal investigation of discrimination. As an employee of Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee School District, Vicky Crawford participated in the sexual harassment investigation of Gene Hughes, the district’s employee-relations director. The investigation concluded with the school district taking no action against Hughes, but the district fired Crawford. Crawford filed suit alleging that her dismissal violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the section that contains an anti-retaliation provision. Marsha Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center recognized Attorney General Dann for taking the lead in today’s filing. “For women to be truly protected from sexual harassment, they must receive effective protection against retaliation,” said Ms. Greenberger. “It is crucial that the Supreme Court reverse the lower court’s decision in this case and we are delighted that Ohio has led the states supporting plaintiff Vicky Crawford.” The federal district court that heard the case dismissed Crawford’s complaint, saying that a formal complaint must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Without a formal complaint, according to the court, witnesses who participate in investigations – even witnesses who are victims of sexual harassment – have no protection under the Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision and denied Crawford protection, in part, because the “impact of Title VII on an employer can be onerous.” (more)

In today’s action, the attorneys general supported Crawford and wrote: “The primary purpose of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision . . . cannot be achieved if Title VII is interpreted in a way that deters victims of sexual harassment from complaining about harassment.” Continuing, they wrote, Title VII “must protect all participants in employers’ internal investigations rather than leaving some participants vulnerable to retaliation.” The amicus brief also noted the importance of the case and explained that the case’s outcome will affect the “efficacy of both state and federal efforts to combat unlawful discrimination.” In addition to Ohio, the states represented on the brief include Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia, as well as Puerto Rico.

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