Can individuals be singled out in employment discrimination lawsuits? 42 U.S.C. §1983 and how it relates to employment discrimination lawsuits
When you hear that an employer has “discriminated” against an employee, the key question is what type of discrimination occurred? There are many types of discrimination.
The most common types of discrimination fall under three federal statutes: (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (2) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and (3) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It ensures equal opportunity in employment for disabled persons. The statute specifically provides that:
No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12112(a).
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) prohibits discrimination against individuals who are at least 40-years of age. The statute specifically provides that:
It shall be unlawful for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age; (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age; or (3) to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter.
ADEA, 29 U.S.C §623(a).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) varies from the ADA and ADEA in that covers a wide range of discrimination. The ADA only prohibits discrimination against disabled people. The ADEA only prohibits discrimination against those workers who are 40-years and older. Title VII prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, color, religion or national origin. It ensures equal opportunity in employment for ALL persons. The statute specifically provides that:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a).
These federal statutes allow an employment discrimination lawsuit to be brought against an employer for their discriminatory behavior. However, if there is one individual who was sole engager in the discriminatory behavior, there is also a way to individually name that individual in an employment discrimination lawsuit.
42 U.S.C. §1983 allows for individuals to be named in an employment discrimination lawsuit. 42 U.S.C. § allows individuals to be held personally accountable for their discriminatory behavior. Under 42 U.S.C. §1983, individuals can no longer hide behind the protection of their employer.
42 U.S.C. §1983 specifically states:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
In a recent case filed in the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Cheryl A. Williams v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Ms. Williams makes some serious allegations concerning: (1) disability discrimination in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12203 (2009), (2) racial discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, (3) age discrimination in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. §§621-623 and (4) discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§951-963. An amended complaint was recently filed where the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) was not only named as a Defendant but also two PHRC employees who personally engaged in discriminatory treatment against Ms. Williams. Under 42 U.S.C. §1983, our firm alleges that these two PHRC employees are liable to Ms. Williams because they violated her rights and privileges guaranteed to her under the ADA, Title VII and PHRA.
The resolution of this case is still pending so it is unknown whether these PHRC employees will be held accountable for their actions. However, 42 U.S.C. §1983 made it possible to name these individuals in the lawsuit.
This article was originally published on the Law.com network on November 25, 2014.