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Social Equity

The legal area of "Social Equity" addresses issues relating to the discriminatory treatment of individuals within the workplace or classroom.  Individuals who are members of certain classes of people are afforded protection from discrimination by various federal and/or state statutes.  The goal of such legislation is to eliminate unequal treatment of individuals based on factors such as race, national origin, religious practices, age, ethnicity, disabilities, and gender.

Each University has an office of Social Equity that is available to assist any university employee or student in the event that a suspected discriminatory practice has occurred.   If you believe that you are a victim of discrimination, do not hesitate to contact the Social Equity Office of your university.

Social Equity Legislation and Related Issues

Disability Issues:

Race, Color, Religion, Sexual Harassment or National Origin Issues:

Gender Equity Issues:



Social Equity Cases


Barnes, et al. v. Gorman , U.S. Supreme Court (June 17, 2002). The Supreme Court determined that punitive damages are not available in private suits brought under Section 202 of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Applying a contract law analogy, the Court concluded that punitive damages are only appropriate when the recipient of federal funds is on notice that, by accepting the federal funding, it is exposing itself to such liability.

Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal , U.S. Supreme Court (June 10, 2002). An employer may refuse to hire an individual if it believes that, due to that person's disability, his or her job performance would endanger his or her health.

U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett , U.S. Supreme Court (April 29, 2002). An accommodation under the ADA is not reasonable if it would violate an employer's seniority rules. However, the employee may present evidence of special circumstances to show that an exception to such rules would be reasonable under the circumstances.

Toyota v. Williams , U.S. Supreme Court (January 8, 2002). The Court overturned a Sixth Circuit case that held that an auto plant worker with carpal tunnel syndrome was disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and that the employer should have given special consideration in finding appropriate new job duties. Held: Substantial limitation in major life activities does not equate with physical problems that substantially limit the worker in performing manual tasks at her job. The employee must be unable to perform tasks that are the daily activities of most people, instead of the daily tasks of a particular job.

Sherski v. Time Warner Company , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (July 9, 2001). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer should have provided the specific accommodation requested by the disabled employee, unless that accommodation would have presented an undue hardship to the employer.

Tice v. Centre Area Transportation Authority , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (April 23, 2001).

Gonzalez v. National Board of Medical Examiners , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (August 22, 2000).

Marinelli v. City of Erie , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (June 22, 2000).

Heimbach v. Lehigh Valley Plastics, et al. , U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (January 5, 2000).

Race, Color, Religion, Sex, or National Origin:

Grutter v. Bollinger, et al. , U.S. Supreme Court (June 23, 2003). The Court affirmed the decision of the 6th Circuit that the use of race-conscious factors by the University of Michigan Law School in its admission program is constitutional. The Court, citing Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), stated that diversity can constitute a compelling state interest in justifying the use of race conscious factors in university admission programs and that the Law School's admissions program is narrowly tailored to achieve the objective of diversity.

Gratz et al, v. Bollinger, et al ., U.S. Supreme Court (June 23, 2003). The use of race in the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions program (by automatically granting 20 points out of a possible 150 to underrepresented minorities) is not narrowly tailored to achieve its compelling state interest of diversity. It therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as Title VI and § 1981.

Lockridge v. Board of Trustees of Univ. of Arkansas, et al . , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (June 24, 2002). Where an employer has failed to establish clear personnel policies for promotion, plaintiff need not have applied for the position in question in order to establish a prima facie case of discrimination.

Report on Race-Neutral Admissions, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education (March 2003). The title of the 39-page report is "Race Neutral Alternatives in Postsecondary Education: Innovative Approaches to Diversity."

Johnson v. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (August 27, 2001). The Court held that the university's use of racial classifications in its admission process was unconstitutional.

Abramson v. William Patterson College of New Jersey , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (August 3, 2001). The court held that a former faculty member established a prima facie case for her claims of hostile work environment, religious discrimination, and unlawful retaliation under Title VII and state law.

Bibby v. Coco Cola Bottling Company , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (August 1, 2001). The court reaffirmed that discrimination based upon sexual orientation is not actionable under Title VII.

Good News Club et al. v. Milford Central School , U.S. Supreme Court (June 11, 2001).

Smith, et al. v. University of Washington Law School, et al. , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (December 4, 2000) .

Tai Kwan Cureton, et al. v. NCAA , U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (December 22, 1999).

Jones v. School District of Philadelphia , United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit (December 10, 1999).

Texas, et al. v. Lesage , U.S. Supreme Court (November 29, 1999).

Schurr v. Resorts International Hotel , U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit (November 12, 1999).

Gender Equity:

Neal v. Board of Trustees of the California State Universities , U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (December 15, 1999).

Boulahanis, et al. v. Board of Regents, Illinois State University, U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (December 3, 1999).


General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Dennis Cline, et al ., U.S. Supreme Court (February 24, 2004).

Kimel, et al. v. Florida Board of Regents, U.S. Supreme Court (January 11, 2000).