The court's four-member conservative bloc was broken in each case. The first case involved a private sector employee; the second, a postal worker.
The high court ruled 7-2 that the 1866 federal civil rights law protects those who complain of retaliation, even against someone else, as well as those who have suffered discrimination.
Hedrick Humphries said CBOCS West Inc. fired him because he is black and because he complained to managers that another black employee was fired because of race.
A federal judge and a Chicago federal appeals court ruled against him, saying he could not file suit on the civil rights claims but the Supreme Court ruled that his claims are actionable under the federal law, section 1981.
In the second case, the high court ruled 6-3 reversed a federal appeals court in Chicago. The justices said the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects federal workers who complain of age bias on the job.
(No. 06-1431, CBOCS West vs. Humphries; and No. 06-1321, Gomez-Perez vs. Potter.)