Consent Decree Cannot Shield Officials From Reverse Race Bias Claim

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has determined that the mayor of Indianapolis and other city officials can be held liable to three white police lieutenants whose constitutional rights to equal protection were violated when they were denied promotions. Black officers who ranked lower on the eligibility list were promoted instead – giving rise to the white officers claims of “reverse discrimination.” The officer’s Title VII claims are still pending.

The city officials claimed qualified immunity based on a 1978 consent decree between the Justice Department and Indianapolis requiring them to take race into account when making promotions. While the consent decree set goals for increasing the percentage of African American police officers in all ranks, the 7th Circuit held that the federal court was correct in finding that it did not “mandate the promotions at issue.”

The 7th Circuit also determined that the federal court correctly denied immunity to the officials. Even though the consent decree set recruitment and hiring goals for black officers, promotions were to be based on relevant standards and criteria, applied without regard to race or color.

The Court of Appeals also reasoned that the city’s provision for race-neutral promotional exams would be undermined if race could be used as a criterion for promotions. As such, the white officers claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1981 and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 were allowed to proceed.

Title VII and other race discrimination laws protect against discrimination based on the color of your skin, even where you are not a racial minority. Both discrimination and “reverse discrimination” cases may arise when an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee based on race such as a termination, failure to hire, or failure to promote.

If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination based on your race or color, you need to take immediate action. For more information, contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, dedicated to protecting employee’s rights.