Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 10 (1997)

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346

ROBINSON v. SHELL OIL CO.

Opinion of the Court

United States and EEOC as Amici Curiae 16-25; see also 2 EEOC Compliance Manual 614.7(f). According to the EEOC, exclusion of former employees from the protection of 704(a) would undermine the effectiveness of Title VII by allowing the threat of postemployment retaliation to deter victims of discrimination from complaining to the EEOC, and would provide a perverse incentive for employers to fire employees who might bring Title VII claims. Brief for United States and EEOC as Amici Curiae 18-21.

Those arguments carry persuasive force given their coherence and their consistency with a primary purpose of antiretaliation provisions: Maintaining unfettered access to statutory remedial mechanisms. Cf. NLRB v. Scrivener, 405 U. S. 117, 121-122 (1972) (National Labor Relations Act); Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U. S. 288, 292- 293 (1960) (Fair Labor Standards Act). The EEOC quite persuasively maintains that it would be destructive of this purpose of the antiretaliation provision for an employer to be able to retaliate with impunity against an entire class of acts under Title VII—for example, complaints regarding discriminatory termination. We agree with these contentions and find that they support the inclusive interpretation of "employees" in 704(a) that is already suggested by the broader context of Title VII.

III

We hold that the term "employees," as used in 704(a) of Title VII, is ambiguous as to whether it includes former employees. It being more consistent with the broader context of Title VII and the primary purpose of 704(a), we hold that former employees are included within 704(a)'s coverage. Accordingly, the decision of the Fourth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

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