University of Tex. S.W. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. ___, 2013 WL 3155234 (2013)

The United States Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff asserting retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") must prove that illegal retaliation was the "but for" cause of the employer's adverse action. In a five-to-four decision, the Court rejected the lower court's decision applying a less burdensome standard, which required merely that a plaintiff show retaliation was one "motivating factor," among others, resulting in the adverse job action. Dr. Naiel Nassar, a physician of Middle Eastern descent, complained that one of his superiors, Dr. Beth Levine, discriminated against him based on his religion and ethnic heritage. Nassar, who worked as a staff physician and assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center ("UTSW"), attempted to resolve the issue by arranging to work at the hospital without being a UTSW faculty member under Levine's supervision. After Nassar resigned from UTSW, citing Levine's discrimination and harassment as his primary motivation for the transfer, the hospital withdrew its offer of employment at the request of Levine's supervisor. Nassar filed suit against UTSW, alleging constructive discharge and retaliation under Title VII. The issue on appeal was whether Nassar had to prove that the alleged retaliation was the "but for" cause of the termination or merely one of several "motivating factors" in the decision. In holding that a plaintiff alleging a Title VII retaliation claim must prove that the retaliation was the "but for" cause of the employer's adverse employment decision, the Supreme Court clarified that the less burdensome "motivating factor" test applies only to status-based discrimination under Title VII (discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, etc.) and not retaliation claims such as the one Nassar asserted in this case.