Beware alternative to Title VII: There’s another way to file for race discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

You are no doubt familiar with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It prohibits various kinds of discrimination and also spells out tight deadlines for when employees must file complaints with a state discrimination agency or the EEOC.

But there is another avenue employees can use to get into federal court, as long as race is at the core of the discrimination claim. They can file a discrimination lawsuit under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act.

And because “race” is an ill-defined word, many employees qualify.

Recent case: Nikolay Nedeltchev filed a lawsuit claiming he had been unlawfully fired because of his Bulgarian national origin. He claimed he had been ridiculed, called a terrorist and that hotel guests where he worked were allowed to harass him.

His original Title VII lawsuit claimed his employer discriminated against him because of his Slavic or Eastern European race. However, Nedeltchev had waited too long to file an EEOC complaint. He asked the court if he could amend his complaint to add race discrimination under Section 1981. That way, missing the EEOC deadline wouldn’t keep him out of court.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Nedeltchev. It said he should be allowed to continue his lawsuit, arguing he suffered race discrimination based on ancestry or ethnic characteristics even though his Title VII claims were dead. (Nedeltchev v. Sheraton, No. 07-3811, 8th Cir., 2009)

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