Press Release

AALDEF Asks Supreme Court to Hear Asian American Police Officer Discrimination Case

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is urging the Supreme Court to review a Second Circuit statute of limitations holding in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the Asian Jade Society on behalf of Asian American Port Authority officers in New York and New Jersey. The lawsuit alleged that through discriminatory policies and practices, the Port Authority denied Asian American police officers promotions because of their race.

Image by AALDEF

“The Port Authority passed over Asian American police officers because of their ethnicity,” said Ken Kimerling, Legal Director of AALDEF. “These were not merely isolated incidents of discrimination but part of systemic practice.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is an agency created by agreement between the states of New York and New Jersey to develop transportation facilities in the New York metropolitan area. The Port Authority did not disclose its process for promoting officers to sergeants. However, before 2001, not a single Asian American officer had ever been promoted to sergeant in the Port Authority.

In 2009, a jury found systemic discrimination against seven of the officers in the selection of sergeants, and that the Port Authority’s decision not to promote those Asian American officers was motivated by their race and ethnicity. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the findings of discrimination on appeal but reduced the amount of damages based on a determination that some the discrimination was outside of the statutory time limitations period of 180 days.

AALDEF’s petition for certiorari points out that the discrimination against the Asian American officers was a “continuing violation” since the officers were passed over for promotion on multiple occasions over a period of time lasting years. The Supreme Court has recognized that a claim of discrimination based on a hostile work environment covers the full period of the discrimination, not just those acts within the statutory limitations period. In addition, many of the other circuit courts around the country have recognized that damages cover the entire duration of a pattern of systemic discrimination.

“The Asian American officers are legally entitled to receive damages for the entire, continuing period during which they were subject to a discriminatory promotions process that denied them advancement because of their race,” said Kimerling. “We urge the Supreme Court to accept the case for review and overturn the Second Circuit’s decision and restore full relief to the seven petitioners.”

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Ujala Sehgal
212.966.5932 ex.217