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Saint Francis College v. al-Khazraji

Saint Francis College v. al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604 (1987), is a US labor law case decided by the United States Supreme Court.[1]

Saint Francis College v. al-Khazraji
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued February 25, 1987
Decided May 18, 1987
Full case nameSaint Francis College v. al-Khazraji
Citations481 U.S. 604 (more)
107 S. Ct. 2022; 95 L. Ed. 2d 582; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 2054
The Court held that persons of Arabian ancestry were protected from racial discrimination under Section 1981.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · John P. Stevens
Sandra Day O'Connor · Antonin Scalia
Case opinions
MajorityWhite, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Civil Rights Act of 1866)



Al-Khazraji, a professor and U.S. citizen born in Iraq, filed suit against his former employer and its tenure committee for denying him tenure on the basis of his Arabian race in violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The District Court held that while Al-Kharzraji had properly alleged racial discrimination, the record was insufficient to determine whether he had been subjected to prejudice.

The question posed was "Does 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 apply to Arab minorities?"


In response to this question the Court held that persons of Arabian ancestry were protected from racial discrimination under Section 1981. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice White maintained that section 1981 encompassed discrimination even among Caucasians. Justice White noted that history did not support the claim that Arabs and other present-day "Caucasians" were considered to be a single race for the purposes of section 1981.

Justice Brennan, in a separate concurrence, said the following.

Pernicious distinctions among individuals based solely on their ancestry are antithetical to the doctrine of equality upon which this Nation is founded. Today the Court upholds Congress' desire to rid the Nation of such arbitrary and invidious discrimination, and I concur in its opinion and judgment. I write separately only to point out that the line between discrimination based on "ancestry or ethnic characteristics," ante at 481 U. S. 613, and discrimination based on "place or nation of . . . origin," ibid., is not a bright one. It is true that one's ancestry -- the ethnic group from which an individual and his or her ancestors are descended -- is not necessarily the same as one's national origin -- the country "where a person was born, or, more broadly, the country from which his or her ancestors came." Espinoza v. Farah Manufacturing Co., 414 U. S. 86, 414 U. S. 88 (1973) (emphasis added). Often, however, the two are identical as a factual matter: one was born in the nation whose primary stock is one's own ethnic group. Moreover, national origin claims have been treated as ancestry or ethnicity claims in some circumstances. For example, in the Title VII context, the terms overlap as a legal matter. See 29 CFR § 1606.1 (1986) (emphasis added) (national origin discrimination "includ[es], but [is] not limited to, the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual's, or his or her ancestor's, place of origin; or because an individual has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group"); Espinoza, supra, at 414 U. S. 89 (the deletion of the word ancestry from the final version of § 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(e), "was not intended as a material change, . . . suggesting that the terms national origin' and `ancestry' were considered synonymous"). I therefore read the Court's opinion to state only that discrimination based on birthplace alone is insufficient to state a claim under § 1981.


In the companion case, Shaare Tefila v. Cobb, a unanimous Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 likewise applies to discrimination against Jews.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Saint Francis College v. al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604 (1987).
  2. ^ Shaare Tefila v. Cobb, 481 U.S. 615 (1987).

External linksEdit