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U.S. Supreme Court Holds Section 1981 Racial Discrimination Claims Require But-For Causation

In a unanimous decision issued on March 23, 2020, the United States Supreme Court held that a but-for causation standard applies to claims brought under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The Supreme Court also noted that this standard applies throughout the litigation process, including the initial pleading stage.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, a Reconstruction-era statute, includes Section 1981, which guarantees "[a]ll persons . . . the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens." In Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media, the plaintiff pursued a number of theories, but essentially argued that the Court should adopt the motivating factor test employed in cases arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employment law practitioners often will see complaints including counts for both violations of Title VII and Section 1981. It is important to recognize that the causation standards are different for these two statutes. More ›

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