Update (May 27, 2008): The Supreme Court upheld the right of the African-American man to sue his employer for firing him when he complained about racism at his workplace. More
New York, NY, January 4, 2008 …The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) joined with the nearly 200 organizations that comprise the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, in filing a brief at the United States Supreme Court urging the Court to ensure that our nation's employees are fully protected against racial discrimination in the workplace. The "friend-of-the-court" brief (.pdf) called on the Court to continue to allow employees to sue if they are the victims of retaliation for reporting racial discrimination in the workplace.
Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director, issued the following statement:
This case is important because it ensures that employees can report racial discrimination without fear of reprisal for that report. Without such protection, employees are much less likely to report racial discrimination when they see it or are victimized by it.
If, as we urge it to do, the Supreme Court concludes that the law in question has a robust anti-retaliation provision, employees will be empowered to stop racial discrimination before it wrecks lives and careers. In short, we urge the Court to do nothing less than help realize the promise of an America free from racism and bigotry.
Filing this brief continues a longstanding tradition of advocacy in the courts to secure equal justice for all Americans. In fact, ADL's very first brief in the United States Supreme Court dealt with this same provision of law in the landmark 1948 case of Shelley v Kraemer.
In this case, Hedrick Humphries, an African-American associate manager at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, alleged that he was fired because he complained about his supervisor's racially discriminatory behavior.
Mr. Humphries sued under one of the nation's oldest civil rights laws which protects the right of all persons, regardless of race, "to make and enforce contracts," including employment contracts. This law was originally passed in 1866 in direct response to the "Black Codes" enacted in southern States that sought to deprive newly emancipated slaves of civil and economic rights, thereby circumventing the requirements of the Thirteenth Amendment and essentially continue the horrors and hardships of slavery.
In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled that Jews, Arabs and members of other ethnic groups are also protected by this law.
The brief was authored on behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights by the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP.