Holt v. JTM Industries, Inc.

Decision Date07 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-50145,95-50145
Citation89 F.3d 1224
Parties71 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 809, 65 USLW 2130 Frank HOLT; Linda Holt, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. JTM INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant-Appellant, and USPCI Inc., Defendant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Philip E. McCleery, John P. Atkins, Sheehy, Lovelace & Mayfield, Waco, TX, for plaintiffs-appellees.

Lionel Mark Schooler, Gilpin, Paxson and Bersch, Houston, TX, for defendant-appellant and defendant.

Before GARWOOD, EMILIO M. GARZA and DENNIS, Circuit Judges.

EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Defendant JTM Industries, Inc. ("JTM") appeals from the district court's denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law. We reverse and dismiss the case with prejudice.

I

Plaintiffs Linda and Frank Holt were employees at JTM's Limestone Facility ("Facility") in Jewett, Texas. After JTM terminated Linda, she filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the Texas Commission on Human Rights ("TCHR"). Approximately two weeks after JTM received notice of Linda's administrative complaint, Frank was placed on paid administrative leave. Frank was subsequently offered another job with JTM in Atlanta which he accepted, but then voluntarily quit after several weeks.

Linda and Frank Holt filed a complaint against JTM and its parent corporation, USPCI, alleging, inter alia, violations of their rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). Specifically, the Holts alleged age discrimination, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 621, and retaliation against Frank for Linda's administrative complaint of age discrimination, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 623(d). The claims that survived summary judgment were tried before a jury. At the close of evidence, the district court refused to submit any of the Holts' claims against USPCI to the jury, denied JTM's motion for judgment as a matter of law, and submitted the Holts' claims against JTM to the jury. The jury rejected all of the Holts' claims against JTM, except for Frank's claim of retaliation. The district court entered judgment in conformity with the jury verdict, implicitly denying JTM's third motion for judgment as a matter of law. JTM filed a timely notice of appeal.

II

JTM argues that the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law. We review a district court's disposition of a motion for judgment as a matter of law de novo. Wardlaw v. Inland Container Corp., 76 F.3d 1372, 1375 (5th Cir.1996). We must consider all of the evidence "in the light and with all reasonable inferences most favorable to the party opposed to the motion." Boeing Co. v. Shipman, 411 F.2d 365, 374 (5th Cir.1969) (en banc). There must be a conflict of substantial evidence to create a jury question. Id. at 375.

Section 623(d) of the ADEA protects employees from retaliation for opposing acts of age discrimination, or for charging, testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA. 29 U.S.C. § 623(d). A plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of retaliation under the ADEA by showing: (1) that he engaged in activity protected by the ADEA; (2) that there was an adverse employment action; and (3) that there was a causal connection between the participation in the protected activity and the adverse employment decision. Shirley v. Chrysler First, Inc., 970 F.2d 39, 42 (5th Cir.1992).

JTM alleges that the district court erred in denying its motion for judgment as a matter of law because Frank did not engage in an activity that is protected by the ADEA. Specifically, JTM argues that Frank did not oppose JTM's practices which Linda alleged were discriminatory, nor did he make a charge, testify, assist or participate in any manner in Linda's age discrimination complaint, as required under 29 U.S.C. § 623(d). The Holts do not argue that Frank participated in Linda's filing a charge of age discrimination. Instead, they argue that Linda's charge of age discrimination, which is protected activity under the ADEA, should be imputed to her husband Frank.

The plain language of § 623(d) prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because "such individual" has opposed a practice prohibited by the ADEA or has participated "in any manner" in a proceeding under the ADEA. This section permits third parties to sue under § 623(d) if they have engaged in the enumerated conduct, even if the conduct was on behalf of another employee's claim of discrimination. See Jones v. Flagship Intern., 793 F.2d 714, 727 (5th Cir.1986) (acknowledging that "employee opposition to discriminatory employment practices directed against a fellow employee may constitute" protected activity under the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1065, 107 S.Ct. 952, 93 L.Ed.2d 1001 (1987); Mandia v. ARCO Chemical Co., 618 F.Supp. 1248, 1250 (W.D.Pa.1985) (holding that husband could sue under the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII because he "participated, supported and aided his wife in filing" EEOC charges of sexual harassment). 1 The Holts urge an even broader interpretation of § 623(d). They argue that an individual suing for retaliation need not personally engage in any of the enumerated conduct in § 623(d). Instead, the Holts contend that once an employee's spouse engages in protected activity, the non-complaining spouse automatically has standing to sue for retaliation under § 623(d). This interpretation is necessary, according to the Holts, to eliminate the risk that an employer will discriminate against a complaining employee's spouse in retaliation for the complaining employee's protected activities.

The Holts cite De Medina v. Reinhardt, 444 F.Supp. 573 (D.D.C.1978), as support for their position. The plaintiff in De Medina sued under the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII for retaliation against her because of her husband's anti-discrimination activities. De Medina, 444 F.Supp. at 574. The district court concluded that "tolerance of third-party reprisals would, no less than tolerance of direct reprisals, deter persons from exercising their protected rights under Title VII," which would be contrary to legislative intent. Id. at 580. Therefore, the court held that a plaintiff could sue for retaliation for a relative's or friend's protected activities. It is unclear from the district court's statement of facts whether the plaintiff participated in any manner in her husband's activities. To the extent that this case stands for the proposition that a plaintiff automatically has standing to sue for retaliation when a relative or friend engages in protected activity, we disagree.

Such a rule of automatic standing might eliminate the risk that an employer will retaliate against an employee for their spouse's protected activities. However, we conclude that such a rule would contradict the plain language of the statute and will rarely be necessary to protect employee spouses from retaliation. Section 623(d) prohibits retaliation against an employee who has opposed a discriminatory practice or has participated "in any manner" in a proceeding under the ADEA. This broad language is consistent with Congress's remedial goals in enacting the ADEA. Congress intended the anti-retaliation provision of the ADEA to enable employees to engage in protected activities without fear of economic retaliation. See E.E.O.C. v. Ohio Edison Co., 7 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir.1993) (stating that the purpose of the ADEA "is to prevent fear of economic retaliation from inducing employees 'quietly to accept [unlawful] conditions' ") (alteration in original) (quoting Mitchell v. Robert DeMario Jewelry, Inc., 361 U.S. 288, 292, 80 S.Ct. 332, 335, 4 L.Ed.2d 323 (1960)). To accomplish this goal, Congress drafted § 623(d) to give those employees who oppose discriminatory practices or who participate "in any manner in an investigation [or] proceeding" under the ADEA automatic standing to sue if their employers retaliate against them for their actions.

We recognize that there is a possible risk that an employer will discriminate against a complaining employee's relative or friend in retaliation for the complaining employee's actions. However, we believe that the language that Congress has employed in § 623(d) will better protect employees against retaliation than we could by trying to define the types of relationships that should render automatic standing under § 623(d). If we hold that spouses have automatic standing to sue their employers for retaliation, the question then becomes, which other persons should have automatic standing to guard against the risk of retaliation? In most cases, the relatives and friends who are at risk for retaliation will have participated in some manner in a co-worker's charge of discrimination. The plain language of § 623(d) will protect these employees from retaliation for their protected activities. However, when an individual, spouse or otherwise, has not participated "in any manner " in conduct that is protected by the ADEA, we hold that he does not have automatic standing to sue for retaliation under § 623(d) simply because his spouse has engaged in protected activity. 2

The evidence at trial revealed that Frank was not aware of Linda's intent to file a charge of age discrimination against JTM until a few days before she actually made the charge. He testified that when TCHR mailed Linda a copy of the notice of the filing and service of her complaint, he retrieved it from the post office and looked at it with her. Frank's only other involvement with Linda's protected activities involved carrying out his duties as an employee. The TCHR served the notice of Linda's complaint on JTM to Frank's attention as Plant Manager. Frank testified that he never opened the notice, but he assumed that it contained...

To continue reading

Request your trial
80 cases
  • Garcia-Cabrera v. Cohen
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama
    • February 2, 2000
    ...v. Reinhardt, 444 F.Supp. 573 (D.D.C.1978). Such third party reprisals are actionable in some circuits. Compare Holt v. JTM Indus., Inc., 89 F.3d 1224 (5th Cir.1996) (rejecting standing for third party reprisal) with EEOC v. Ohio Edison Co., 7 F.3d 541 (6th Cir.1993) (recognizing standing f......
  • Sacay v. Research Foundation of City Univer. of Ny, 97-CV-4002(NG).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • March 27, 2002
    ...contradicts the plain statutory language and will rarely be necessary to protect relatives from retaliation); Holt v. JTM Industries, Inc., 89 F.3d 1224, 1227 (5th Cir.1996), cert. denied 520 U.S. 1229, 117 S.Ct. 1821, 137 L.Ed.2d 1029 (1997) (same). This court need not resolve the issue be......
  • Murphy v. Cadillac Rubber & Plastics, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of New York
    • November 21, 1996
    ...to retaliation and constructively discharged because of his wife's complaints (Id., ¶ 44). Defendants, relying on Holt v. JTM Industries, 89 F.3d 1224 (5th Cir.1996), argue that plaintiff JM does not have standing to sue for retaliation based on his wife's complaints of harassment. In Holt,......
  • Texas v. Crest Asset Management, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas
    • February 29, 2000
    ..."`the strong similarities between the language, design, and purposes of Title VII and the Fair Housing Act.'" Holt v. JTM Indus., Inc., 89 F.3d 1224, 1229 (5th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1229, 117 S.Ct. 1821, 137 L.Ed.2d 1029 (1997) (quoting EEOC v. Mississippi College, 626 F.2d 477......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 books & journal articles
  • Closing the Floodgates: Defining a Class of Third-Party Plaintiffs for Title VII Retaliation Claims
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review No. 73-2, January 2013
    • January 1, 2013
    ...Riceland Foods, Inc., 151 F.3d 813 (8th Cir. 1998); Fogleman v. Mercy Hosp., Inc., 283 F.3d 561, 569 (3d Cir. 2002); Holt v. JTM Indus., 89 F.3d 1224, 1227 (5th Cir. 1996) (addressing retaliation under the ADEA); Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, 567 F.3d 804, 816 (6th Cir. 2009), r......
  • Age discrimination
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Federal Employment Jury Instructions - Volume I
    • April 30, 2014
    ...in the enumerated conduct, even if the conduct was on behalf of another employee’s discrimination claim. Holt v. JTM Industries, Inc. , 89 F.3d 1224, 1227 (5th Cir. 1996), cert. denied , 117 S. Ct. 1821 (1997). However, the court rejected the claim of a spouse of an employee who participate......
  • Discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other grounds
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Texas Employment Law. Volume 1 Part V. Discrimination in employment
    • May 5, 2018
    ...to a different employee who filed a charge with the EEOC. Id . This concern was previously discussed in Holt v. JTM Industries , 89 F.3d 1224 (5th Cir. 1996), in which the Fifth Circuit held that an employee did not have standing to sue the employer for retaliation after being placed on adm......
  • Discrimination Based on National Origin, Religion, and Other Grounds
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Employment Law. Volume 2 - 2014 Part V. Discrimination in employment
    • August 16, 2014
    ...to a different employee who filed a charge with the EEOC. Id . This concern was previously discussed in Holt v. JTM Industries , 89 F.3d 1224 (5th Cir. 1996), in which the Fifth Circuit held that an employee did not have standing to sue the employer for retaliation after being placed on adm......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT