In 2011, the United States Supreme Court held in Thompson v. North American Stainless that an employer may violate Title VII by retaliating against an employee who is related to a worker engaged in conduct protected by Title VII—even if the employee himself neither raised a claim of discrimination nor engaged in any protected conduct. Click here to read an alert we wrote on this topic. Since then, some jurisdictions have interpreted Thompson to protect employees and applicants from discrimination, as well as retaliation, based on their close relationship with a member of a protected class.
These cases turn on whether the close associate of the applicant or employee falls within a protected class. Finding that “alienage” is not a protected category, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held that the spouse of an undocumented alien is not protected from termination based on her husband’s unauthorized status.