Dallas, Texas (WiredPRNews.com) — The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that an employee can pursue an action against his employer for retaliating against him for complaining under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. CBOCS West, Inc., v. Humphries, 553 U.S. __ (2008). Hedrick Humphries worked as an assistant manager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. He alleged that his employer fired him because Humphries complained when another assistant manager dismissed an African-American employee for race-based reasons.
Humphries sued his employer for, among other things, violating Section 1981. This Civil War-era statute grants all citizens the rights to make and enforce contracts. Humphries alleged that his employer violated this statute by retaliating against him, even though the statute does not expressly prohibit retaliation.
The Court first reviewed its previous opinions on this topic. It then concluded that, because previous opinions interpreting a “sister statute” found that the sister statute supports retaliation claims, Section 1981 likewise supports retaliation claims. The Court based its decision on stare decisis, a doctrine requiring that previous decisions be followed.
This ruling is significant because the damages available under Section 1981 differ from those available under other discrimination laws. Also, while other discrimination laws require an employee to first seek a remedy from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Section 1981 does not require this administrative step. To discuss these implications with an employment lawyer, please contact the employment lawyers at Clouse Dunn Khoshbin LLP at [email protected]