Second Circuit: “Hispanic” is a “Race” For Purposes of Federal Antidiscrimination Laws

In Village of Freeport v. Barella (decided February 16, 2016), the Second Circuit addressed whether “‘Hispanic’ describes a race for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII.”

In this case – which resulted in a $1.35 million jury verdict for plaintiff – plaintiff alleged (in sum) that defendant Village’s former mayor Andrew Hardwick did not appoint him chief of police because plaintiff was a white Italian-American, and instead appointed a less-qualified Hispanic.

The court explained:

Based on longstanding Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent, we reiterate that “race” includes ethnicity for purposes of § 1981, so that discrimination based on Hispanic ancestry or lack thereof constitutes racial discrimination under that statute. We also hold that “race” should be defined the same way for purposes of Title VII. Accordingly, we reject defendants’ argument that an employer who promotes a white Hispanic candidate over a white non‐Hispanic candidate cannot have engaged in racial discrimination.

It affirmed the district court’s denial of defendants’ motions for judgement as a matter of law.

However, the court held that the district court erred in allowing lay opinion testimony that “impermissibly speculated as to Hardwick’s reasons for promoting Bermudez, in violation of Rule 701(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.”

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