Village of Freeport v. Barrella, No. 14-2270 (2d Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit under federal and state laws, alleging that Defendant Hardwick, the former mayor of the Village of Freeport, had not appointed him chief of police because plaintiff was a white Italian‐American, and that Hardwick had instead appointed a less‐qualified Hispanic. The court rejected defendants’ argument that an employer who promotes a white Hispanic candidate over a white non‐Hispanic candidate cannot have engaged in racial discrimination. Based on longstanding Supreme Court and Second Circuit precedent, the court reiterated that “race” includes ethnicity for purposes of 42 U.S.C. 1981, so that discrimination based on Hispanic ancestry or lack thereof constitutes racial discrimination under that statute. The court also held that “race” should be defined the same way for purposes of Title VII. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment insofar as it denied defendants’ motions for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Rule 50. The court held, however, that the district court erred in permitting lay opinion testimony that speculated as to Hardwick’s reasons for not appointing plaintiff. Such error was not harmless because this case was factually close. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded as to this issue.