Beware Sec. 1981 lawsuits, which target race bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

After the end of the Civil War, Con­­gress enacted Section 1981, outlawing bias based on race in contracts.

But “race” is a general term that also includes clas­­sifications based on qualities like being identified as Ger­­man, Russian or Arab.

Recent case: Shu-Lien Chang sued the restaurant where she worked, alleging that she was har­assed be­­cause of her Asian race. She based her suit on Section 1981. Her employer argued that the law didn’t cover national-origin discrimination.

The court agreed, but said that her identification as a member of the Asian race was different. It said that ethnic­ity and characteristics common to people from particular countries can be “race” for lawsuit purposes. (Chang v. Sodexho, No. 5:11-CV-935, ND OH, 2011)

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