First Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Section 1981 Claim Where Plaintiff Fails To Allege Racial Comments Interfered With A Contract

| Oct 28, 2013 | Firm News

The First Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of Section 1981 claims by a Kmart customer who alleged that a store clerk had made racial comments during a layaway transaction but failed to allege the comments interfered with or harmed the transaction.

Plaintiff, an African-American woman, purchased items on layaway from Kmart. During the initial transaction, the store clerk allegedly made several racially discriminatory comments. The transaction was completed, plaintiff made the purchase and received the items. She did not complain to the store. However, plaintiff said she was “humiliated and deeply offended” by the clerk’s comments. The district court dismissed her Section 1981 claim because she had failed to allege the racial comments had precluded her from making or enforcing her layaway contract.

The First Circuit said a Section 1981 claimant must show (1) she is a member of a racial minority; (2) the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race; and (3) the discrimination implicated one or more of the activities listed in the statute, including the right to make and enforce contracts. The Court said Section 1981 does not provide a general cause of action for race discrimination. The court said it was not aware of any case holding that a store clerk’s verbal comments alone provided the basis for a Section 1981 claim. It affirmed the dismissal.

Hammond v. Kmart Corp., No. 13-1469, 2013 WL 5763267 (1st Cir. Oct. 25, 2013).

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