Robinson v. Shell Oil Company, 519 U.S. 337 (1997), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court unanimously held that under federal law, U.S. employers must not write bad job references, or otherwise retaliate against former employees as a punishment for filing job discrimination complaints.
The case involved a former Shell employee, Charles T. Robinson, who claimed Shell Oil Company fired him from his sales job because he is black. While his race discrimination lawsuit was pending, Robinson applied for a job with another company who contacted Shell seeking a reference. Shell gave Robinson an unfavourable rating and said it would not rehire him. According to an article published by The Washington Post in February 1997, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission submitted a "friend of the court" brief, saying that if former employees were not protected, they "would be chilled from taking action to report or oppose discrimination." The article went on to say that the Court agreed with the view expressed by the EEOC. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court, "EEOC quite persuasively maintains that it would be destructive to [the purposes of anti-bias law] for an employer to be able to retaliate with impunity."