Tag Archives: Title VII

Civil Rights and the Supreme Court

Depending on how you define a civil rights case, this past term was, at least, on the surface a very good year for civil rights groups.  I say on the surface because some of the “wins” were only partial wins.  Of the cases most viewed as “civil rights” cases, the side seeking to protect/expand civil rights won 4-6 cases and the only loss was on a procedural issue.

It was a particularly good year if your claim involved religious discrimination.  In Holt v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court found (in a rare win for an inmate) that Arkansas had to permit an inmate to have a half-inch beard under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  In E.E.O.C. v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the Supreme Court held that a person suing an employer for religious discrimination need only show that the employer’s perception of the possibility that the prospective employee would need a religious accommodation was one of the factors behind the decision to not hire that person.  (In this case, the applicant was a female Muslim who wore a hijab to the interview.  While the applicant’s religious beliefs were not expressly discussed during the interview, the store declined to hire her based on the belief that she would want an exemption from the company’s policy that employees could not wear any head covering.)

In a very technical decision, in two companion cases out of Alabama, the Supreme Court indicated that — even though preclearance is no longer required — the rules against a racial gerrymander of legislative districts will still have bite.  This case has already had a cascading effect on other reviews of the lines drawn for the 2012-20 elections.  Of course,  the fact that we are on the eve of the third round of elections under these lines is one of the reason why pre-clearance was such a big deal.

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