Supreme Court Ruling Makes Discrimination Within Contracts Easier

By Amzad Ali, age 16 and IndyKids Staff

In March, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of cable giant Comcast in Comcast v. National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), weakening a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibiting racial discrimination in contracts. 

Byron Allen, the African-American CEO of Entertainment Studios, and NAAAOM had filed a lawsuit against Comcast for not carrying the black network’s channels. Allen alleged Comcast systematically disfavored “100% African American-owned media companies.” 

Although the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that one “can plausibly infer that Entertainment Studios experienced disparate treatment due to race and was thus denied the same right to contract as a white-owned company,” the Supreme Court said Allen needed to prove race was the “but-for” cause — in other words, that Comcast would have acted differently if Entertainment Studios was a white-owned company. Thus, Allen failed to prove racial discrimination by the Supreme Court’s standards. 

So what does this mean for future racial discrimination lawsuits? Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says, “This ruling weakens our nation’s oldest civil rights statute and may shut the courthouse door on some discrimination victims who, at the complaint stage, may simply be without the full range of evidence needed to meet the Court’s heightened standard.” Essentially, the Supreme Court is making it more difficult for those affected by discrimination by raising the standards of what is expected to fight in court.

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