The answer is a clear and unambiguous “yes.”
The Supreme Court, in Thompson v. North A. Stainless, LP, a decision issued earlier this year (see our blog discussion of January 25, 2011), held that if an employee files a claim of employment discrimination, and another employee who is a close family member of the first employee suffers an “adverse employment action,” this may be considered retaliation.
Before the Thompson decision was rendered, a federal appeals court had dismissed such a claim of retaliation in which a Houston police officer alleged that he was transferred to a less desirable position because his father (also a police officer) had filed a discrimination claim. The court held then that retaliation must be “based on [the plaintiff-employee’s] engaging in his own protected activity.” Zamora v. Houston.
However, given the ruling in Thompson, the appeals court just reversed itself and held that the son has a potential claim for retaliation based upon his father’s protected activity.