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New Jersey Employment and Civil Rights Attorney Discusses ‘Reverse Discrimination’

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2014 | Workplace Discrimination |


It’s mostly people who aren’t members of “historically disenfranchised” minorities that ask me about the concept of “reverse discrimination.” It’s usually a male, usually Caucasian and usually Christian. The male may feel he was discriminated against by females because he’s male, by gay people because he’s straight, by racial minorities because he’s Caucasian, etc. Maybe he was discriminated against. Maybe not. The point is that in the mind of the questioner, discrimination against him isn’t simply “discrimination,” it’s somehow “reverse” discrimination, whatever that phrase means to him.

I’m here to tell you that the concept shouldn’t even exist, but there is an asterisk. It sort of does exist. I’ll explain in a second.

First of all, let’s talk philosophy and policy.

Discrimination is bad. Racial discrimination is bad, gender discrimination is bad, sexual orientation discrimination is bad. You get the idea. It’s not OK to judge somebody, in terms of their job, how you treat them, etc., because of the color of their skin, whom they love, whom they worship (or don’t), etc. Therefore, it’s not OK for black people to discriminate against white people, for gay people to discriminate against straight people, etc. Again, you get the idea.

Why is it all “equally” bad? Should it be?

While we’re certainly not yet living in a “post-discrimination” world – this firm is far too busy for us to be there yet – we’re certainly in a world where the traditional forms of discrimination are, happily, lessening somewhat. It’s far less “OK” nowadays to denigrate somebody because of their skin color, their sexual orientation, etc., even though it still happens. It’s far less OK to be misogynistic and hateful and abusive towards women and treat them like sex objects in the workplace, even though it still happens.

But likewise, there are also more racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in positions of authority in the workplace. America is becoming more multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. Also, there are more openly LGBT people in positions of authority. And last but not least, of course, there are far more women in positions of authority then has ever before been the case.

That’s all a good thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to “swing the pendulum” in the other direction – where the ascending groups start “paying” back white, straight Christian males by discriminating against them – nor is it time to “get revenge” for decades or even centuries of historic disenfranchisement and abuse. To put it biblically, two wrongs don’t make a right.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) purports to treat all discrimination equally, meaning, of course, that a white person discriminated against in the course of their employment by a black person because the victim is white has the same exact rights as the black person discriminated against in the course of his working relationship because he’s black.

Yet the New Jersey Courts have put that “asterisk” I mentioned above into this discussion, and it doesn’t belong there.

By case law, the New Jersey Courts have suggested that there is somehow a slightly “higher” ladder to climb in a “reverse discrimination” case. This is dead wrong from a policy perspective. It validates discrimination. It validates revenge. It doesn’t say good things about our society or our state. It implies – frankly, outright suggests – that some categorical discrimination is worse than others, and, therefore, some categorical discrimination is therefore more “OK” (for being less objectionable) than other types.

Where’s that going to get us? In an “eye for an eye” world, everyone’s eventually blind.

“Reverse discrimination” as a concept doesn’t exist; or, at least, it shouldn’t. The case law which suggests the tougher proof structure for discrimination which isn’t traditional has got to go. We represent victims of all types of discrimination. The fact that discrimination against white, straight, Christian males is far more historically uncommon than other types of discrimination doesn’t make it OK, because no discrimination is OK. The only way to kill roaches is to kill them all. If you let some live because you don’t want to be as hard on them, they’ll always come back.