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Interracial Marriage Discrimination

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 5/22/2008
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One of my employees, a white man, has been harassed and threatened with termination by his supervisor because he is married to an African-American woman. Should I be concerned about potential liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act?

Yes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of such individual's race. Some courts have held that in cases involving interracial marriages, Title VII does not provide any protection because the alleged discrimination is not based on the individual's own race but on the race of such individual's spouse. However, other courts have rejected such a restrictive reading of Title VII, reasoning that, in such cases, the employee suffers discrimination because of the employee's own race. Had the employee been of the same race as his or her spouse, the reasoning continues, his or her marriage would not have been interracial, and, presumably, the employee would not have been subject to discrimination based on race. Noting that Title VII generally proscribes race-conscious discriminatory practices, one federal appellate court stated that "where a plaintiff claims discrimination based upon an interracial marriage or association, he alleges, by definition, that he has been discriminated against because of his race."

Although not all jurisdictions have adopted this position, it would be prudent for every employer to prohibit discrimination against employees for involvement in interracial relationships. Also, given the disparities among jurisdictions on this issue, employers should seek the advice of their local counsel should the matter arise.


10/27/2011 11:44:23 AM #

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