Reverse discrimination is a form of discrimination affecting members of a majority instead of a minority. They may experience discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, or another protected characteristic. These types of discrimination claims typically arise in employment or education.
Reverse discrimination is not expressly included in federal civil rights laws. However, these types of lawsuits are generally brought as discrimination cases. This is permissible under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other statutes.
Anti-discrimination laws were initially enacted to prevent discrimination against minority applicants. They also intended to protect groups who were historically disadvantaged. Due to the origin of these laws, misinformation had spread. Some falsely believe that these same laws do not protect members of majority groups. However, anti-discrimination laws generally prohibit all forms of discrimination based on protected characteristics. This includes discriminating against members of a majority group.
What Is Reverse Discrimination?
Reverse discrimination occurs when a member of a majority experiences discrimination. Say a man sues an employer because a woman received favorable treatment for being a woman. Meanwhile, he received unfair treatment. This is one example of reverse discrimination. Examples of reverse discrimination employment decisions may include:
- Making decisions in favor of minority groups solely on the basis of race
- Disregarding the experience or seniority of members of the majority
- Hiring or promoting women solely based on their sex or gender
- Refusing to hire or fire persons under 40 years of age in favor of hiring persons over 40 years of age
Reverse Discrimination in Employment: The Law
Reverse discrimination claims are not easily proven. The plaintiff has the burden of proving discrimination based on a prohibited basis. A person making the claim must prove:
- Evidence that the plaintiff is a member of a protected class;
- Similarly situated employees outside the plaintiff's class received more favorable treatment;
- Information that supports that the employer discriminates against majority groups; and
- The plaintiff performed the job satisfactorily (if part of a promotion decision)
Reverse Discrimination, Affirmative Action, and the Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld affirmative action in college admissions in the past. One notable example is the decision in the landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). In this case, a white medical school applicant challenged the use of race in admissions. The applicant argued that it was a form of racial discrimination (reverse race). The Court held that race could be one of several factors in a college admissions policy. But colleges couldn't use specific quotas based on race or other factors.
The U.S. Supreme Court addressed another challenge to affirmative action. In another case, a college applicant, Abigail Fisher (white), argued against race as a factor in the application process. She and other white college applicants felt that they were at a disadvantage. The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that the practice was lawful under the Equal Protection Clause.
In 2023, the Court ended race-conscious admission programs at the university level. The Supreme Court held that American universities have long believed incorrectly that mere skin color determines a person's identity. It held that our constitutional history does not support this perspective.
At the same time, the Court noted that nothing prohibits colleges from weighing in on an applicant's discussion of how race affected their life. If it connects to a quality or ability that the applicant can contribute to the school, there is no problem.
What To Do if You Suspect Employment Discrimination
If you believe you were the victim of wrongful termination or any other adverse action due to an impermissible factor, you may wish to file a charge of employment discrimination. You can do so with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency that handles these types of claims. You should also contact your state's equivalent of the EEOC.
Learn More About Discriminatory Treatment From an Attorney
The strength of a discrimination claim hangs upon the facts of your individual situation and any applicable laws. An employment lawyer can help assess the chances of your claim's success and give valuable legal advice. Find a local employment law attorney today for help filing a discrimination lawsuit.
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Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.