Discrimination at its essence

The Third Circuit's recent decision in Hassan v. City of New York, --- F.3d ---, 2015 WL 5933354 is a welcome reminder that the Court understands the real harm inflicted by discrimination. Discrimination is not, and I repeat not, principally an economic tort. Economic losses often result from discriminatory decisions, but discrimination is more about the dignitary - some would say spiritual - injury inflicted when one is judged or treated differently because of skin color, race, age, gender or religion.The plaintiffs in Hassan claimed that they were targets of a wide-ranging surveillance program that the New York City Police Department (the “NYPD”) began in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks (the “Program”). They alleged that the Program was based on the false and stigmatizing premise that Muslim religious identity “is a permissible proxy for criminality, and that Muslim individuals, businesses, and institutions can therefore be subject to pervasive surveillance not visited upon individuals, businesses, and institutions of any other religious faith or the public at large.” They sued “to affirm the principle that individuals may not be singled out for intrusive investigation and pervasive surveillance that cause them continuing harm simply because they profess a certain faith.” The...

Religious and cultural expression in the workplace

I recently received a call from a Native American being harassed at work because his hair is long.  Many Native Americans' wear their hair long as an expression of their ancestry and heritage, and because they maintain sincere religious beliefs that long hair is a sacred symbol of their life and experience in the world and should only be cut to mark major life events, such as the death of a loved one.  To my knowledge, the only federal court to address this issue is the Fifth Circuit, which ruled in favor of a Native American boy and permitted him to wear his hair long at school.  As I considered the facts of the case, I was reminded of a recent press release from the EEOC announcing a lawsuit against a corporation that failed to hire a qualified applicant because she wore dreadlocks.According to the EEOC's suit, after completing an online job application, Chastity Jones was among a group of  applicants who were selected for a group interview on May 12, 2010.  At the time of the interview, Jones, who is black,  had blond hair that was dreaded in neat curls, or "curllocks."  Catastrophe's human resources staff conducted  the group interview...