Today, a divided U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Jane Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C., holding that a number of federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not permit victims of intentional discrimination to recover damages for emotional distress. As Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan in dissent, explained, the Court’s decision will leave individuals who “suffer profound emotional injury without any attendant pecuniary harms” as a result of intentional discrimination “with no remedy at all.”
Last year, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), in partnership with the ACLU, the ACLU of Texas, and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff. The brief explained that Congress passed Title VI for the specific purpose of remedying the harms caused when recipients of federal funds engage in racial discrimination, including the humiliation and emotional distress caused by such discrimination; that previous court rulings have accordingly permitted plaintiffs to recover emotional distress damages under the statute for decades; and that damages for the emotional distress caused by racial discrimination were recoverable under other laws prior to Title VI, too.
“We respectfully, but strongly disagree with the Court’s decision today, which will leave many persons who have been denied equal citizenship on the basis of race, sex, and other protected characteristics without any meaningful remedy,” said LDF Director of Litigation Samuel Spital. “This decision represents a sharp departure from prior precedent interpreting Title VI and other core anti-discrimination statutes, and it undermines the purpose of those laws — laws which have been essential to recognizing and protecting the civil rights of millions of people.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.