Standing and Delivering on Title VII’s Promises: White Employees’ Ability to Sue Employers for Discrimination against Nonwhites


Over twenty-five years ago, the Supreme Court in Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. held that a white resident of an apartment complex had standing to sue the building owners for rental practices that discriminated against minority applicants.’ In a unanimous ruling, the Court reasoned that because the owner’s racially discriminatory rental policies injured all residents of the housing complex, the white plaintiff had standing to sue under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 for “loss of important benefits from interracial associations.”‘ In the years since Trafficante, this theory of standing based on the loss of associational benefits has been intermittently extended to workplace antidiscrimination suits brought by white plaintiffs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Applying Trafficante, numerous courts have held that white employees have standing to claim that their employer’s discriminatory actions against minority employees or applicants have “polluted” their work environment.

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