EmployeeIssues.comU.S. Employee Rights in Plain English
Employment Contracts and AgreementsAgreements
Attorney Referral ServiceAttorney Referral
Employee BenefitsBenefits
Employee Rights BlogBlog
Work Breaks and LeaveBreaks & Leave
Child LaborChild Labor
Independent ContractorContractor
Criminal Record - Job and Employment DecisionsCriminal Record
Work HoursHours
Workplace and Employment RetaliationRetaliation
Workplace Safety and HealthSafety & Health
Employment Termination and DischargeTermination
Labor UnionsUnions
Wages and PayWages & Pay
Workplace IssuesWorkplace
Find a New Job
jobs by Indeed job search
You are Here: Home > Blog > Race-Based Retaliation Lawsuits

Employee Rights Blog

Employee Rights and Related Matters

Race-Based Retaliation Lawsuits

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted employees the right to sue their employers for race-based retaliation under Section 1981 of civil rights law. Suing for employer retaliation under Section 1981 has several advantages verses suing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because Section 1981 has:

  • A four-year statute of limitations, which is much longer than under the other discrimination laws
  • No limit on compensatory damages, which are capped under Title VII
  • No minimum employee requirement for employers; only employers who employ 15 or more employees are bound by Title VII
  • No requirement to first file a retaliation charge with the EEOC, as most other discrimination laws require

The wording in Section 1981 means that all people, regardless of race or color, have the right to make and enforce contracts, including employment agreements.

A contract exists between employer and employee, even in the absence of a written employment agreement. Subsequently, as indicated in Section 1981, an employee has the right to enjoy “all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.”

The Supreme Court has interpreted that employee right to include suing an employer for race discrimination or race-based retaliation, even though Section 1981 mentions neither.

Section 1981 Background

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of Section 1981, it’s likely because it’s a very old race discrimination law from the Reconstruction era that hasn’t had much press until recently.

Section 1981(a) was originally the first section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which was designed to protect the contractual rights of freed slaves. Congress amended Section 1981(b) and (c) into the law based on the outcome of the 1989 case of Patterson v. McLean Credit Union and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

The Supreme Court has since affirmed that employees may file lawsuits under Section 1981 for employment discrimination on the basis of race. But it wasn’t until the recent case of CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries that the Supreme Court set the new precedent for race-based retaliation lawsuits under Section 1981.

In the case, African-American Hedrick Humphries worked for Cracker Barrel as an assistant manager, before Cracker Barrel terminated his employment. In his lawsuit against Cracker Barrel under Section 1981, Mr. Humphries essentially alleged that his discharge was raced-based retaliation for complaining about racial discrimination against an African-American coworker, whom Cracker Barrel had previously discharged.

Employees of various races may file race discrimination or race-based retaliation lawsuits under Section 1981, not just African Americans. Consult a lawyer for legal advice about that.

Ask a Lawyer Online Now
Ask an Employment Lawyer Online Now
Land a Job
jobs by Indeed
Do not reproduce content from this or any page. Plagiarism will be detected by Copyscape. See copyright notice below.
Employee Rights Blog powered by WordPress
Consult a Lawyer for Legal Advice
Copyright Notice