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The Supreme Court’s Anti-Retaliation Principle

Richard Moberly

University of Nebraska College of Law

September 20, 2010

Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 61, p. 375, 2010

In five cases issued during the last five years, the Supreme Court interpreted statutory antiretaliation provisions broadly to protect employees who report illegal employer conduct. These decisions conflict with the common understanding of the Court as pro-employer and judicially conservative. In a sixth retaliation decision during this time, however, the Court interpreted constitutional antiretaliation protection narrowly; an act that fits with the Court’s pro-employer image but diverges from the antiretaliation stance it appeared to take in the other five retaliation cases. This Article explains these seemingly anomalous results by examining the last fifty years of the Supreme Court’s retaliation jurisprudence. In doing so, a persistent theme emerges: the “Antiretaliation Principle.” This Principle advances the notion that protecting employees from retaliation will enhance the enforcement of the nation’s laws. Interestingly, although the Court has used the Antiretaliation Principle for a half-century to strengthen statutory protections against employer retaliation, it also has demonstrated consistently that it considers the Antiretaliation Principle primarily a statutory, rather than constitutional, norm.

The Antiretaliation Principle explains the Court’s recent cases and provides a reasoned and consistent standard against which they can be evaluated. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s Antiretaliation Principle provides important lessons for lower courts as they confront the need to protect whistleblowing employees from employer retaliation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 79

Keywords: retaliation, Supreme Court, whistleblowers

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Date posted: September 21, 2010 ; Last revised: July 18, 2011

Suggested Citation

Moberly, Richard, The Supreme Court’s Anti-Retaliation Principle (September 20, 2010). Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 61, p. 375, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1680046

Contact Information

Richard Moberly (Contact Author)
University of Nebraska College of Law ( email )
103 McCollum Hall
P.O. Box 830902
Lincoln, NE 68583-0902
United States
402-472-1256 (Phone)
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