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Reverse Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The terms and protections of Title VII are not limited to any particular race or sex. Similarly, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) protects Pennsylvania workers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age or national origin. These laws protect against discrimination in all areas of employment, including hiring decisions, promotions, demotions, wages and benefits, and termination.

Discrimination is not limited to minorities. Discrimination against members of a majority group (e.g. Caucasian, males, etc.) exists as well. The practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously is referred to as “reverse discrimination.” An example of reverse discrimination may involve a minority employer favoring a minority employee over a majority employee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided an example of reverse discrimination involving a settlement in 2009 for a white hostess at a Jack in the Box restaurant. The hostess complained that black co-workers harassed her with racial epithets and insulted her about being pregnant with a mixed-race child. Since employers rarely state their discriminatory intent outright, the courts allow plaintiffs in discrimination cases to provide circumstantial evidence to prove that common sense and social context indicate that illegal discrimination has occurred. Examples of discriminatory employment practices include, but are not limited to:

  • Unfair hiring processes that rely on racial or gender stereotypes.

  • Unfair selection of employees when downsizing.

  • Precluding employees from promotion on the basis of race or gender.

  • Requiring or only allowing employees of certain races or genders to work overtime.

  • Differential pay on the basis of race or gender.

  • Wrongful discharge in retaliation for reporting racial or gender discrimination.

  • Racial harassment, such as racial slurs, racial jokes or other prejudicial conduct that creates a hostile work environment.

  • Sexual harassment, such as sexual jokes, unwanted contact or commentary or other prejudicial conduct that creates a hostile work environment.

The test for proving such discrimination comes from the Supreme Court case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, which states that under typical discrimination cases, the plaintiff first bears the burden of proving:

  • He or she belongs to a minority class;

  • He or she applied for, and was qualified for, a job for which the employer was seeking applicants;

  • Despite his or her qualifications, he or she was rejected; and

  • After this rejection, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants from persons with the plaintiff’s qualifications.

In Pennsylvania, the McDonnell Douglas framework mentioned above is equally applicable to Caucasian and male applicants as it is to minority and female applicants. Caucasian and male plaintiffs need not prove any additional factors that would not be necessary under the traditional framework. As the court held in the case of Iadimarco v. Runyon, “all that should be required to establish a prima facie case in the context of “reverse discrimination” is for the plaintiff to present sufficient evidence to allow a fact finder to conclude that the employer is treating some people less favorably than others based upon a trait that is protected under Title VII.”

There is a limited time in which you can bring a claim for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. You must file your claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the last act of discrimination However, if you file a claim with the PHRC within 180 days of the last act of discrimination, your deadline to file a claim with the EEOC is extended to 300 days of the last act of discrimination. RMN can help you to successfully navigate this process.

If filing your claim with the EEOC and/or the PHRC does not provide satisfactory results, it may be in your best interest to consider starting the litigation process. This process requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your situation and a solid understanding of the law of reverse discrimination. The experienced attorneys at RMN will guide you on the path that is right for you.

If you or someone you know has been unlawfully discriminated against contact an RMN attorney today at or 412-626-5626.


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