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“Jewish” Applicant May Purse Sec. 1981 Claim But Not Title VII

Joshua Bonadona has a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. He was brought up in the Jewish community but converted to Christianity as a student at Louisiana College. Upon graduation, he was hired as an assistant football coach. After a couple of years, he left to pursue another degree and took another position. In 2017, he was asked to return to Louisiana College by the new head coach. However, his offer was rescinded purportedly because of his Jewish heritage. He sued for race discrimination under Title VII and Section 1981. In 2018, a magistrate judge ruled that Bonadona could pursue a race discrimination case under Title VII. However, a Louisiana federal district court has made a different holding.

Bonadona argued that Jewish people are a protected race under both Title VII and Section 1981. Section 1981 “seeks to prevent racial discrimination in private and public contracts.” Title VII prohibits race discrimination in employment. The district court distinguished the interpretation of both statutes by the time period in which they were passed. Section 1981 was passed in 1866 when Jewish people were considered a separate race. However, when Title VII was enacted, Jewish individuals were no longer considered a separate race. Thus, the court concluded Bonadona had no claim for race discrimination under Title VII.

However, under Section 1981, Bonadona could proceed based on the head coach’s deposition testimony stating that the college president referred to Bonadona as “the young Jewish man” and said he was “not the best for the [college].” The president denied this statement but it was confirmed in the coach’s “post interview report” created contemporaneously. The court declined to view it as a “stray remark” because it was made by the college president who had final hiring authority and it was said around the time the decision not to hire Bonadona was made. The college’s legitimate nondiscriminatory reason, that Bonadona failed to a “vibrant faith” in Christ and did not complete his employment application, was not supported by any evidence to the court.