The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s “alienage” discrimination claims brought under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Section 1981). Although the court acknowledged that claims of “alienage” or citizenship status discrimination can indeed be brought under Section 1981, it found that an employer may nonetheless lawfully terminate an employee who is unauthorized to work in the United States.

In Manley v. Champlain Stones, Ltd., No. 17-2593 (2d Cir. November 7, 2018), the plaintiff had sued his former employer under Section 1981 alleging that he was unlawfully terminated because he was not a U.S. citizen. In dismissing his claims, the Second Circuit found that the plaintiff was discharged not because of his citizenship status, but rather because he was not authorized to legally work in the United States (a point that the plaintiff conceded).

While the limited facts in Manley supported the court’s relatively easy dismissal, the case serves as a timely reminder for employers that Section 1981 can be used as an alternative path for plaintiffs to submit employment- and immigration-based discrimination claims, and that work authorization issues must be handled consistently to avoid potential liability.  

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.