2d Circuit Clarifies Scope of Race Discrimination Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1981

In Nadesan v. Citizens Fin. Grp., No. 16-942-CV, 2016 WL 7177496 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2016) (Summary Order; Judges Livingston, Chin, Carney), the court clarified the scope of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, a federal statute that prohibits certain forms of discrimination.

Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides, in pertinent part:

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.

This statute has certain procedural advantages over Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which also prohibits discrimination based on race), in that (e.g.) it does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies. (See, e.g., Newsome v. IDB Capital Corp., No. 13-CV-6576 (VEC), 2016 WL 1254393 fn. 29 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2016).)

However, Section 1981’s scope is more limited than Title VII. As explained by the Nadesan court:

Nadesan first argues his complaint adequately pleads a claim for race discrimination within the meaning of § 1981. Section 1981 provides a cause of action for discrimination on the basis of race, which includes ancestry or ethnic characteristics, but not for discrimination based solely on the place or nation of [the plaintiff’s] origin. Nadesan’s complaint repeatedly asserts that he is a “Singapore National,” and that he was treated differently from his coworkers on this basis. The complaint does not, however, allege facts that if true would establish that any different treatment was based on Nadesan’s race, ethnicity, or ancestry as opposed to his nation of origin. Although we are sensitive to the potential overlap among these categories in the § 1981 context, we agree with the district court: Nadesan’s complaint does not state a claim for race discrimination within the meaning of § 1981. (Emphasis added.)

Title VII explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of , e.g., national origin. 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2.

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