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With the United States Supreme Court’s term having recently come to a close, the Court has issued an opinion concerning what an employee must prove to prevail in a retaliation lawsuit for discrimination based upon the protected classes of race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

To succeed in a discrimination suit against an employer, an employee must prove that his or her termination, or other adverse employment action, has a sufficient causal connection with some form of prohibited employer discrimination.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the proper standard for causation in an employer retaliation suit under Title VII is that of “but-for” causation. In other words, the standard is that, to be liable, the circumstances must be such that the employer would not have taken the adverse employment action but-for the discriminatory motivation.

The Court found that the text of Title VII demonstrated that Congress had intended to apply the “motivating factor” standard only to status-based suits (such as race, color, religion, sex or national origin), and no mention is made of retaliation suits. The Court held that absent explicit legislation from Congress otherwise, the default standard for retaliation claims is that of “but-for” causation.