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Court calls it ‘nonsensical’: Prejudice against the prejudiced isn’t covered discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, it seems as if employees just make up reasons to sue their employers. Fortunately for employers, when employees’ claims turn out to be ludicrous, courts quickly dismiss the lawsuits.

Recent case: A group of black teachers for the City of New York Department of Education sued, alleging anti-Caribbean discrimination. They claimed they had been targeted by their supervisors, who were also black, but of African-American heritage.

One of the teachers made this claim: She had made anti-African-American statements. What happened was that African-American parents complained that the teacher was anti-American. Her African-American supervisors then developed anti-black-Caribbean animus. Therefore, her argument went, the teacher could sue for discrimination.

The court disagreed, concluding that the teacher’s “argument is nonsensical.” It concluded that the supervisors might have developed a dislike for the teacher based on the complaints, but that the dislike wasn’t based on her black-Caribbean origins. Instead, it was based logically on her perceived bigotry. (Kathy-Ann Vaughn, et al., v. City of New York, No. 06-CV-6547, ED NY, 2010)

Final note: The EEOC recognizes that racial discrimination between members of what many think of as the same protected class is possible. For example, the agency describes a type of discrimination based on the amount of pigment in black skin—so-called color discrimination. There have been cases involving discrimination by lighter-skinned supervisors against darker-skinned subordinates. You can learn more about color discrimination at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/race-color.html.

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