What Is Reverse Discrimination?

Put simply, reverse discrimination is discrimination against members of a non-minority or historically “advantaged” group. Examples of reverse discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Hiring applicants from racial and ethnic minority groups over equally or more qualified majority applicants for no other reason than an applicant’s minority status
  • Promoting employees from racial and ethnic minority groups over majority employees with more seniority or experience for no other reason than an employee’s minority status
  • Hiring or promoting women over equally or more qualified men based solely on gender
  • Refusing to hire or firing employees under age 40 in order to hire employees over age 40

In the United States, reverse discrimination is a controversial topic, particularly when it comes to affirmative action. Some view affirmative action policies as a form of reverse discrimination, while others see affirmative action as a necessary means to attain and retain minority employees who have been historically underrepresented in the workplace. Obviously, no employer wants to be accused of reverse discrimination. Let an experienced Monmouth County business attorney review your employment practices to ensure they conform to state and federal employment laws — before you find yourself the target of a lawsuit.

In recent years, numerous employers have lost or settled reverse discrimination lawsuits. In a case that reached the Supreme Court, the City of New Haven was found to have unfairly denied white firefighters promotions by throwing out an exam in which no African Americans and only two Hispanics scored high enough to qualify for promotion. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) settled a lawsuit involving an employee who was denied eight promotions over a three-year period allegedly due to an unwritten FAA policy of promoting women and minorities at least 50 percent of the time. When officers sued the San Francisco Police Department for allegedly favoring African Americans for promotions to lieutenant, the department settled without admitting wrongdoing. And Benedict College, a historically black school in South Carolina, reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after three white faculty members accused the college of passing them over for jobs based on race.

Employment litigation can be costly. It is best to avoid potential lawsuits by ensuring your practices are legal and fair. To avoid reverse discrimination claims, employers should:

  • Treat all employees in a similar and consistent manner
  • Have a rational and documented reason for decisions about hiring, promoting, firing or laying off, as well as for taking disciplinary action against an employee
  • Avoid potentially illegal minority quotas
  • Take seriously any allegations of reverse discrimination and conduct a thorough investigation if an employee files a complaint within the company or with the EEOC

If an employee has accused you of reverse discrimination, contact a qualified Monmouth County business lawyer today.



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