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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Employees Protected From Discrimination For Having A Biracial Child?

African and caucasian hands gesturing on gray studio background, tolerance and equality concept

For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida racial discrimination lawyers have litigated racial discrimination cases in Florida courts. Having represented racial discrimination victims for decades, our Ocala, Florida racial discrimination attorneys know that a common employment law myth is that federal employment discrimination law does not prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s relationship with a person of another race. For example, many employees mistakenly believe that they are not protected from discrimination based on their marriage with a person of another race. Employers continue to perpetuate this employment law myth, our Marion County, Florida racial discrimination lawyers have learned, by routinely claiming that federal employment discrimination law does not apply to race discrimination premised on an interracial relationship.

Interracial Relationship Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. In interpreting Title VII, courts have recognized a claim for discrimination based on an employee’s interracial relationship with a person of another race. As observed by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Holcomb v. Iona College,  521 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. 2008), interracial relationship discrimination violates Title VII’s prohibition against race discrimination because when an employee is subjected to an adverse employment action based on an interracial relationship, “the employee suffers discrimination because of the employee’s own race.” Thus, the Holcomb  court determined that a white employee had a valid claim of race discrimination under Title VII based on his allegation that he was fired “because of his interracial marriage.” Likewise, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Deffenbaugh-Williams v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,  156 F.3d 581 (5th Cir. 1998) ruled that a white employee could establish that she was discriminated against because of her race in violation of Title VII “if that discrimination was premised on the fact that she, a white person, had a relationship with” an African-American person.

In this article, our Marion County, Florida racial discrimination lawyers explain how the decision in Tetro v. Elliott Popham Pontiac,  173 F.3d 988 (6th Cir. 1999) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because they have a biracial child.

Race Discrimination Lawsuit

In that case, a man named Tetro, who is white, brought a race discrimination claim against his former employer, Elliott Popham Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and GMC Trucks, Inc. (the dealership), pursuant to Title VII. Tetro claimed that the dealership fired him because he had a biracial child.

Tetro worked as the finance manager at the dealership. After commencing his employment with dealership, according to Tetro, he immediately began receiving praise from the dealership’s owner, a man named Popham, and his co-workers regarding his job performance. Things went smoothly, Tetro maintained, until the day that his family visited him at work. It was during this visit that Popham observed Tetro’s biracial daughter for the first time. After the owner learned that he had a biracial child, Tetro contended that work atmosphere suddenly changed for the worse.

Tetro alleged that Popham soon began ridiculing him and insulting him about his weight in front of employees and customers. Tetro also claimed that he and another employee overheard Popham talking on the telephone approximately one month after Tetro’s family visited the dealership. During that telephone conversation, Popham allegedly stated that “no one ever told me that he had a mixed-race child and that this was going to hurt [Popham’s] image in the community and his dealership.”

Several days after Popham’s racially charged remarks were made, Tetro arrived for work wearing casual clothes. Tetro claimed that he dressed casually because he had scheduled a doctor’s appointment, which the General Manager had already approved. Popham confronted Tetro regarding his casual attire. Tetro alleged that a heated argument quickly ensued regarding his clothes and medical appointment. Tetro claimed that Popham told him to get out of the dealership or else he would call the police. Tetro left the dealership and never returned.

Interracial Relationships Protected

After the trial court dismissed Tetro’s race discrimination claim, the threshold issue on appeal before the Sixth Circuit was whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination against employees on the basis of race encompasses discrimination based on an employee’s association with a person of another race. In other words, did Title VII prohibit the dealership from firing Tetro because he had a biracial child? The dealership argued that Title VII only protected Tetro from discrimination based on his race and did not protect Tetro from discrimination based on the race of a third person with whom Tetro associates. Thus, the dealership maintained that it could lawfully fire Tetro for having a biracial child because the termination decision was not based on Tetro’s race, but, instead, the race of a third person.

At the outset of its opinion, the Sixth Circuit pointed out that courts “have broadly construed Title VII to protect individuals who are the victims of discriminatory animus towards third person with whom the individuals associate.” The appellate court also noted that the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Parr v. Woodmen of the World Life Ins. Co.,791 F.2d 888 (11th Cir. 1986) that when an employee “claims discrimination [in a Title VII action] based upon an interracial marriage or association, he alleges, by definition, that [the employee] has been discriminated against because of his race.”

Applying this same reasoning, the Sixth Circuit rejected the dealership’s argument and ruled that Title VII prohibited the dealership from discriminating against Tetro because he had a biracial child. The appellate court explained that a “white employee who discharged because his child is biracial is discriminated against on the basis of race, even though the root animus for the discrimination is a prejudice against the biracial child.” In support of its conclusion, Sixth Circuit reasoned that Title VII “provides us with a clear mandate from Congress that no longer will the United States tolerate this form of discrimination.”

Free Consultation For Discrimination Victims

One of the most important decisions racial discrimination victims must make is which employment law firm to contact for legal advice regarding their legal rights. As part of our commitment to protecting and vindicating the rights of racial discrimination victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment law attorneys regarding your employee rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Marion County, FL Racial Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our racial discrimination attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to representing employment discrimination victims. If you have been discriminated against at work or have questions about your protection from discrimination based on an interracial relationship, please contact our office for a free consultation with our racial discrimination lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes racial discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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