Tuesday, April 1, 2008

2nd Cir. Recognizes Title VII Association Discrimination Claims

Scales We've talked about associational discrimination claims under the ADA, but that statute has express anguage permitting such claims.

Title VII does not, but that did not stop the 2nd Circuit (per Judge Calabresi) from recognizing such a claim. From Howard Bashman at How Appealing:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today issued a ruling that vacates the entry of summary judgment against a Title VII claim brought by a white man who alleges that Iona College's decision to terminate his employment as an assistant coach of its basketball team was motivated by his marriage to a black woman . . . .

"We * * * hold that an employer may violate Title VII if it takes action against an employee because of the employee's association with a person of another race."

The court is more specifically held:

We reject this restrictive reading of Title VII. The reason is simple: where an employee is subjected to adverse action because an employer disapproves of interracial association, the employee suffers discrimination because of the employee’s own race. All the district judges in this circuit to consider the question, including the district court in this case, have reached that conclusion.

The case is  Holcomb v. Iona College, No. 06-3815 (2nd Cir. Apr. 1, 2008). I think the Court should be applauded for understanding the broad remedial purposes of Title VII and getting this case right.



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I wouldn't characterize this as an ADA-like "association" claim b/c it turns analytically on the race of the employee, not the person being associated with. It is a straightforward extension of a race-plus/stereotyping theory: employers cannot insist that white people have relationships (of any sort) only with other white people (or Democrats, or Minnesotans). For a general discussion of these cases, and their connections to other intergroup "association" claims, [shameless plug warning] see my
"Beyond the Zero-Sum Game: Toward Title VII Protection for Intergroup Solidarity," 77 Indiana Law Journal 63 (2002)

Posted by: Noah Zatz | Apr 1, 2008 3:51:04 PM

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