Can an individual sue a former employer for a retaliation after he has left his job?

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Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, or national origin, also prohibits retaliation by an employer against “employees” or “applicants for employment” who have opposed unlawful practices or who have participated in Title VII proceedings. Read literally, this language would not allow a lawsuit by an individual who was retaliated against after he had left his job.

Yuri, a Russian-born Jew, was fired from his job as an electrical engineer. He alleged discrimination by his employer based on national origin and religion. He also alleged reprisals by his former employer, in the form of giving false information to his subsequent employer, refusing to consider rehiring him, and volunteering to a placement firm the information that Yuri had previously filed a charge of discrimination.

A federal appellate court rejected a literal reading of the statute against retaliation in favor of advancing its broad remedial purposes. It ruled that an ex-employee like Yuri can also sue for retaliation, even when it comes after dismissal, provided that the retaliation intrudes on the plaintiff’s efforts to obtain and keep a job.