A federal magistrate in the Western District of Louisiana has issued what appears to be the first ruling under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that someone who is Jewish may be protected from race discrimination under the statute. In Bonadona v. Louisiana College, the Court ruled that an individual who was born to a Jewish mother but converted to Christianity could proceed with his Title VII claim on the basis that Jews are a protected “race” under Title VII. Plaintiff, a practicing Baptist who had been born into a Jewish family, alleged that the College violated Title VII’s prohibition against racial discrimination when it refused to hire him because of his “Jewish descent” and what the College’s President called Plaintiff’s “Jewish blood.” The College moved to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff’s “Jewish ethnic heritage” does not qualify as a race under Title VII.
In the Report and Recommendation denying the motion, the magistrate considered decisions arising under other statutes from the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts finding that Jews are a group entitled to racial protection.
The Bonadona court was persuaded by the rationale that recognized that “anti-Semitism . . . is often rooted in prejudice against a person based on his heritage/ethnicity without regard to the person’s particular religious beliefs,” and concluded that Jewish citizens “have [thus] been treated like a racial or ethnic group that Title VII was designed to protect from employment discrimination based on membership in that group.”
The College has filed objections to the Report and Recommendation arguing that the court’s reliance on precedent interpreting cases that did not arise under Title VII was improper.