Title VII

When the lines are long and the protesters loud, predicting the path the Supreme Court might take is a perilous practice. Especially if the Justice who voted most in the majority last term—Justice Kavanaugh—is nearly silent.

And yet…when the lawyer arguing that gender identity is covered under Title VII, David Cole, spends most of him time explaining how the case the Court will decide after he wins should be decided—it is hard to suspect his hasn’t already won.

The title of this article appears to be deceptive if not flat out wrong as Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media isn’t an employment case. Nevertheless, it presents an important legal question for employers because the law it involves applies to them as such. Understanding the issue in the case—whether a claim of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 fails in the absence of but-for causation—requires a little background.

Section 1981, enacted in 1866, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in contracting and employment, among other things. It states “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

Before an employee alleging employment discrimination under Title VII (on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin) may bring a lawsuit in federal court he or she must file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis the Supreme Court held unanimously that Title VII’s charge-filing requirement is a “mandatory procedural prescription” that a court must consider if timely...

After refusing to accept or reject petitions for months the Supreme Court has finally agreed to decide whether employers violate Title VII when they discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Among other things, Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of . . . sex.” 

Until 2017 all federal courts of appeals to consider the question had held Title VII does not protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation. This changed when the Seventh Circuit reversed itself in Hively v. Ivey Tech Community College concluding “discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

Before an employee alleging employment discrimination under Title VII (on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin) may bring a lawsuit in federal court he or she must exhaust administrative remedies by bringing formal charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (or equivalent state agency).

The question the Supreme Court will decide in Fort Bend County v. Davis is if an employee fails to exhaust administrative remedies with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit is the lawsuit barred. The State and Local Legal Center amicus brief argues the answer to this question is yes.

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