Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yes, White Males Are a Protected Class

I feel like this story is too stupid to be true . . . yet here we are. I first heard about it via Jon Hyman, although it is now blowing up into the mainstream media (see CNN front page news item here). The CEO of Archie Comics is accused of calling male employees "penis" in a recent lawsuit - and her defense? According to the reports, her lawyer (really?) is proffering as her defense that white males are not a protected class under employment discrimination statutes.

Let me assure you that this is wrong - at least as it pertains to federal employment discrimination laws.
It is well settled that Title VII's prohibition of race-based discrimination protects white employees as well as minority employees. McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co., 427 U.S. 273, 278–79, 96 S.Ct. 2574, 49 L.Ed.2d 493 (1976) (stating that Title VII is “not limited to discrimination against members of any particular race”).
Burlington v. News Corp., 759 F. Supp. 2d 580, 596 (E.D. Pa. 2010). The plaintiff in Burlington? A white guy claiming he was fired for using the n-word while black employees used it without discipline. The Court allowed his claim to proceed past summary judgment to a jury (although I'm not sure what ever happened to this case - chime in with a comment if you know). So yes, whites are covered.

And what about men? Yup. Covered. In fact, EEOC charge statistics show that as of 2011, over 16% of sexual harassment charges were filed by men.
Title VII's prohibition of discrimination “because of ... sex” protects men as well as women.
Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 78, 118 S. Ct. 998, 1001, 140 L. Ed. 2d 201 (1998). And, in case you're wondering, Oncale also explains that employees may face race and/or sex discrimination from members of the same race and/or sex.

I'd like to see a copy of the actual court filing to see if there's some unreported nuance in this Archie case (like the lawsuit was brought under some state law that actually doesn't protect white males). If you have a link, drop a comment.