Legal Case Analysis of Burlington vs. White Essay

Legal Case Analysis of Burlington vs. White

Statement of Facts

            The petitioner of the case is Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. (Burlington) which is a company who hired a lone female worker respondent White. Her task is to operate a forklift owned of the petitioner. Sheila White filed a case for sexual harassment and subsequently, his immediate supervisor was disciplined for that matter. As a result, she was removed from her duty to operate the forklift and was transferred to standard laborer work. Due to this worsening situation, Sheila brought a suit with the EEOC on grounds of illegal sexual category discrimination referring to the reassignment as well as retaliation of her complaint.  Later on, White was suspended for insubordination and the same was without pay.

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However, when the petitioner learned that there was no insubordination at all, White was reinstated and paid with back wages for the time she was not paid while suspended. But, the suspension of White led to another EEOC case for retaliation. Hence, White filed before the federal court that the action of the petitioner in altering the work tasks and applying suspension for 37 days without pay against White is a clear act of retaliation under the law. There were different opinions of the circuit courts as to the truth whether the case was a workplace-related and the harm a retaliation case would constitute.

Legal and Ethical Issues Statement

            The legal issue of the case is that: is it legal for the petitioner Burlington to reassign respondent White to standard laborer duties from being a forklift operator? For the ethical issue on this case: is it ethical for the petitioner Burlington to reassign White and suspend her for 37 days after filing a sexual harassment case and complaint to the OECC respectively? The answers of these questions boil down to the fact that there must be a reason why Burlington reassigned White to a different job and suspended it upon filing a retaliation case.

Based on the decision, the very main standard of conduct that has been established is the prohibition on the employer to interfere with unfettered accessibility to the remedial provisions of Title VII, which is preventing employers to discriminate victims of any crime from complaining to the EEOC. In this case, it is transparent that those who decided the case in the lower court had extensive proof that the duties as track laborer are considered more laborious and difficult compared to being forklift operator duties, and the second work description was measured a better employment by gentlemen employees that made White to resent for having it. The act of the petitioner is unethical thereby adding insult to injury for White who complained for sexual harassment on the onset and complaints for retaliation before the EEOC resulting to suspension without pay. Hence, the jury’s decision on the material adverse matter of the case is indeed reasonable.

Applicable Legal Rules

            There is a need to tackle the most important applicable legal rules in this peculiar case. As such Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” 42 U. S. C. §2000e-2(a), and its anti-retaliation provision forbids “discrimination against” an employee or job applicant who, inter alia, has “made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in” a Title VII proceeding or investigation, §2000e-3(a) (Findlaw: Burlington v. White).

Support for Ethical Issues

            There are two issues that have been tackled in this case and these are the anti-retaliatory provision as well as the anti-discrimination provision. With respect to support of ethical issues, there are many things that needs to be discussed surrounding on this foundation. Since the Higher Court already decided based on the aforementioned applicable legal rules that the anti-discrimination rule hopes for a workplace wherein employees could not be discriminated upon on account of ethnic, religious, racial and gender-based status, there is a reasonable ground to believe that indeed, petitioner Burlington discriminated and retaliated upon the acts of respondent White to quest for a better employment (Findlaw: Burlington v. White). Knowing that she was the only woman in the said workplace, she must be protected from being discriminated upon in accordance with the law. As evidence, the Court even reiterated that it is possible for an employer to retaliate effectively against an employee through doing actions that is not really related to his or her employment including any harm caused outside the premises of the workplace.

             Moreover, the higher court did not agree with the petitioner and the view of the Solicitor General that there is a sense of anomaly in considering the applicable law to include the protection of all kinds of working individuals (Findlaw: Burlington v. White). The statute mentioned in this case provides wider protection on all victims of retaliatory acts compared to what has been protected by Title VII regarding victims of race-based, ethnic-based, religion-based, or gender-based discrimination. Therefore, there is a glaring proof that anti-retaliatory provision and anti-discrimination provision is not co-terminus with each other. Hence, the range of the anti-retaliation stipulation reaches beyond workplace-related or employment-related retaliatory acts and harm. As decided, the higher court rejected the standards applied by the Court of Appeals wherein the two rules are being treated as co-terminus.


            Justice Alito concurred with the judgment of the case but disagreed with the opinion of the majority on anti-retaliatory provision of Title VII. He was able to name a few cases like that of Rochon considering the fact that the materially adverse employment action test is not limited to on-the-job retaliation. What is important in this dissenting opinion of Justice Alito was that he was able to sort out the different interpretations regarding the applicability of Title VII when he said that instead of using the more factual interpretation based on the language of §704(a) alone, the majority rather puts that language to the side and uses a third interpretation–one that has no foundation in the legislative language (Findlaw: Burlington v. White).

Finally, the case could give more impact on future cases that touches on retaliatory acts of employers against their already problematic and suffering employees who were considered victims of racial, religious and gender-related abuses. With respect to any preparation of compliance plan assignment regarding the applicable law, there is a need to sort out possible situations that may result to retaliation and discrimination against employees in a workplace. For instance, if there will be a compliance plan for AT & T Corporation, employers must be aware that the two provisions regarding Title VII are important to be studied upon and followed to avoid legal inconveniences.


Findlaw. (2008). Burlington v. White, No. 05-259. Retrieved September 12, 2008, from



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