Burrage v. United States

Dicta in this criminal case concerning a heroin death questions the applicability of a penalty enhancement provision in the Controlled Substance Act; the dicta includes a section explicating on causation that Title VII retaliation claims must be proven by a “but-for” causation standard, therefore refining the holding in University of Texas Southwest Medical Center v. Nassar. Nassar abrogated and elevated the previous “motivating factor” standard required for retaliation claims, as articulated in Smith v. Xerox Corp. Burrage clarifies that “but-for” causation is not as high a bar as often considered, but a “minimum requirement for a finding of causation.” In reference to Nassar, the Court moderated the causation standard required for a Title VII retaliation claim, defining the causation standard as the “minimum concept of cause” articulated in Burrage.

Burrage v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 881 (2014); Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct. 2517 (2013); Smith v. Xerox Corp., 602 F.3d 320, 334 (5th Cir. 2010); Burrage, 134 S. Ct. at 888 (citing Model Penal Code § 2.03(1)(a), Explanatory Note (emphasis added); citing also United States v. Hatfield, 591 F.3d 945, 948 (7th Cir. 2010) (but for “is the minimum concept of cause”)).

(Development authored by Daniel Clark)