What are the important court cases that have decided the outcome of disputes involving different forms of discrimination?
There are many kinds of discrimination to which an individual or group can be subjected, and most have found their way to the courts at some point in time. Given the long history of racism in the United States, the issue of racial discrimination has long been part of this country's legal history.
The most significant case study involving racial discrimination could be "Brown versus the Board of Education" (hereafter, "Brown"). The suit was originally filed in Topeka, Kansas, by thirteen African-American families who objected to a racially-segregated public school system. "Brown" was ultimately decided in their favor, but only after working its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard and decided on the case in 1954. "Brown versus the Board of Education" marked the end of the notion of "separate but equal," a legal construct that existed since the nation's birth almost 200 years earlier, and which took its formal moniker in Louisiana State law in 1890.
In the area of age discrimination, there is no single case study that reached the public consciousness like "Brown versus the Board of Education" did for the issue or racial discrimination, which ultimately paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The "Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967" was established to protect workers over the age of 40, and that law has been used by individuals to bring suit against employers, for example, in Meacham versus Knolls Atomic Power Lab, in which the Supreme Court decided that the employer bears the burden of proving that age was not a factor in denying employment or promotion.
Gender discrimination also exists, and has been the subject of a number of law suits that have reached and been decided by the Supreme Court. Among the noteworthy cases decided by the court are "Cleveland Board of Education versus LaFleur"; "Meritor Savings Bank versus Vinson; "Faragher versus the City of Boac Raton"; and "Johnson versus Transportation Agency." Suits centering on accusations of gender discrimination are occasionally filed on the basis of perceived violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Relgious discrimination in the workplace is also illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and make it a crime to deny employment or promotion on the basis of religious affiliation. Muslims have filed lawsuits based upon allegations of religous discrimination when employers have objected to female Muslim employees wearing religious headdress. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Muslims are filing as much as one-fourth of all complaints regarding such restrictions in the workplace. A 2010 case against Abercrombie and Fitch for allegedly denying employment to a female Muslim because of her head covering was filed by the EEOC.
Once again, there is no real landmark Supreme Court case involving religious discrimination. Perhaps one of the more noteworthy cases to reach the Supreme Court was "Morgan versus Swanson," in which two Texas school principals had been accused of restricting freedom of speech of students wishing to distribute religious materials on school grounds. The court ruled in the principals favor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was designed to protect the disabled from workplace discrimination and requires businesses that cater to the public and employers to make reasonable accomodations for disabled individuals.