allen's, Comcast, discrimination, supreme court
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 13 in a $20 billion lawsuit Allen filed against Comcast. If Allen wins, it will become easier for black-owned businesses to bring and win civil rights lawsuits like his that allege discrimination in contracting. If Comcast wins, the applications of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 will be limited. (Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP/Shutterstock)

Supreme Court to Hear Byron Allen’s Discrimination Case Against Comcast

Media Mogul and comedian Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks sued Comcast Corporation for refusing to carry any of the networks his company owns. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal by the Comcast Corporation. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Allen’s favor, but Comcast (No. 6 on DiversityInc’s 2019 Top Companies for Diversity) appealed.

Allen claims Comcast’s refusal to air his networks was racially motivated, which violates Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The law says “all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

Comcast, on the other hand, says it did not discriminate against Allen or his companies based on race, but rather on what it believed viewers wanted. However, Allen alleges Comcast took on other channels owned by white people who had fewer viewers.

This case is much larger than Comcast and Allen. If Comcast wins, civil rights advocates are arguing, it will become more difficult for those who believe they are discriminated against across the board to sue using section 1981.  A decision in Comcast’s favor would mean race would have to be the sole reason for a company’s refusal to enter into a contract.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed during the Reconstruction era. Section 1981 — which Comcast is seeking to gut — allows plaintiffs to sue if they believe race played any role in a company’s decision to not enter into a contract with them.

The goal of Section 1981 was to give people of color the same rights to work, bank, shop, rent or buy a home and become entrepreneurs free from discrimination. Passed after slaves were freed, its applications meant to put Black Americans on the same level as whites, allowing them the same opportunities to work and build wealth.

Comcast denies it is seeking to roll back discrimination protections.

The question before the court will be whether race needs to be the solefactor in a refusal to enter into a contract for the incident to be considered discrimination, or whether it can be just one of the factors.

In October, the Lawyers’ Committee and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed separate briefs supporting Allen. They argue a “but-for” application of the law — meaning the defendant would have entered into a contract with the plaintiff “but for” their race — would restrict those wanting to bring up discrimination cases because they would have the burden of proving race was the only factor playing into their treatment. The briefs argue a “but-for” interpretation of the law does not appear in its text. Neither brief took a position on the merit of Allen’s claims.

The Trump administration filed a brief in support of Comcast, saying the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was incorrect in deciding a plaintiff could win by proving racism was just one of the factors leading to a refusal enter into a contract.

Others say Allen’s claim of discrimination does not prove his race played any role in Comcast’s decision not to work with his companies. Comcastalso says it works with a number of minority-owned networks, including AFRO, CLEOTV and The Weather Channel, which Allen owns. Those against Allen — who is a billionaire — believe that his claims are frivolous and undermine other, less wealthy people’s discrimination claims.

Allen is seeking to sue Comcast for $20 billion.

Related Story: Congresswoman Joyce Beatty Grills Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s Civil Rights Practices

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…