Employment Law Daily Job offer rescission over Black woman’s dreadlocks will not get further SCOTUS scrutiny
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Job offer rescission over Black woman’s dreadlocks will not get further SCOTUS scrutiny

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The Supreme Court will not review an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding an employer that rescinded a job offer to a qualified Black woman solely because she wore her hair in dreadlocks did not violate Title VII. The case below was brought by the EEOC. The employee sought to intervene in the Supreme Court to file a petition for certiorari, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. In a May 14 order, the Court denied her motion to intervene and file the petition.

The petition for certiorari offered the Justices and opportunity to determine “Whether an employer’s reliance on a false racial stereotype to deny a job to an African-American woman is exempt from Title VII’s prohibition on racial discrimination in employment solely because the racial stereotype concerns a characteristic that is not immutable.”

Title VII doesn’t cover it. Below, in a revised opinion in EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS), the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court, finding that in its proposed amended complaint and in its briefs, the EEOC had conflated the distinct Title VII theories of disparate treatment—the sole theory on which it was proceeding—and disparate impact, a theory it had expressly disclaimed. Eleventh Circuit precedent holds that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on immutable traits, and the proposed amended complaint did not assert that dreadlocks, although culturally associated with race, are an immutable characteristic of Black persons.

The appeals court also was unpersuaded by EEOC guidance because it conflicts with the position the federal agency took in an earlier administrative appeal, and the EEOC did not persuasively explain why it had changed course. The Eleventh Circuit further said that “no court has accepted the EEOC’s view of Title VII in a scenario like this one” and concluded that the proposed amended complaint failed to set out a plausible claim that CMS intentionally discriminated against the applicant on the basis of her race.

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