On March 23, 2020, in Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American Owned Media, the Supreme Court resolved a circuit split on whether discrimination claims brought under section 1981 require “but-for” causation or whether they can be analyzed under Title VII’s “motivating factor” test. The Court confirmed “but-for” causation is required.
The plaintiff in the case, Entertainment Studios Network (ESN), is an African American-owned television network operator that sought to have Comcast carry its channels. Comcast refused, citing reasons such as lack of programming demand, bandwidth constraints, and a preference for other types of programming that ESN does not offer. ESN and the National Association of African American-Owned Media sued, alleging Comcast violated 42 U.S.C. section 1981, which guarantees “[a]ll persons…the same right…to make and enforce contracts…as is enjoyed by white citizens.”
On appeal from the district court’s dismissal of ESN’s complaint for failure to state a claim, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding ESN was only required to plead that race played “some role” in Comcast’s decision-making process.
Continue Reading Supreme Court confirms race discrimination claims under section 1981 require “but-for” causation