Managers may be personally liable under old bias law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,Hiring,Human Resources

Here's another point to get the attention of your managers and supervisors when they complain about yet another discrimination training session. If they don't pay attention, it's not just the company that may suffer. They could be sued personally, too.

The main federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, doesn't allow for personal liability. But under a separate federal law, Section 1981, supervisors—and even co-workers with the authority to make or recommend employment action against a worker—can be held personally liable.

Passed by Congress after the Civil War, Section 1981 bans discrimination in the making of contracts. Because a person's job is a contract, wrongly interfering with that contract by firing an employee based on race may violate Section 1981.

Case in point: Nakira Cisero sued almost all her co-workers and supervisors at a Jacksonville Wal-Mart, claiming she was forced to quit due to racism. Using Section 1981, she alleged they interfered with her employment contract. The co-workers protested that they weren't her supervisors and never had hiring/firing authority.

The federal trial court didn't entirely dismiss the case. But it told Cisero she had to show proof the defendants were either her supervisors or co-workers with the power to recommend employment actions against her. (Cisero v. Wal-Mart, No. 3:05-CV-1105, MD FL, 2006)  

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