Eric Longmire filed suit in a New York Federal Court against his employer Wyser-Pratte Management Co. (“Wyser-Pratte”), a Wall Street investment firm, alleging that Wyser-Pratte violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it threatened to reveal his true racial identity. Longmire was the son of an African-American father and a white mother. He decided to try to “pass” as white because he believed that racial discrimination was prevalent in investment firms on Wall Street. Shortly after he was hired in 1991, Longmire confided in Wyser-Pratte’s president that he was African-American and asked that his racial background remain a secret. Longmire’s employment with Wyser- Pratte ended in 2004, when he claims that the corporation’s president demanded that he testify falsely in the president’s divorce proceeding or he would disclose Longmire’s racial secret. When Longmire refused, he was terminated and this suit followed.
A federal court in New York has now granted summary judgment in favor of the company, finding that Longmire’s claim regarding the disclosure of his racial identity failed to state a cause of action under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or state and city employment discrimination laws. Specifically, the court held that no federal statute, including Title VII, expressly extends privacy protection to factual information regarding a person’s race. The court also rejected Longmire’s Constitutional “zone of privacy” argument. The court reasoned that, since Wyser-Pratte was not a governmental official or a private party acting under color of state law, there was no zone of privacy afforded to the disclosure of Longmire’s racial background. Longmire v. WyserpPratte, Case no. 05-6725. It is unlikely that many employees will have a claim similar to that of Longmire. However, in view of the fact that employers are now obligated to seek self-identification of their employees’ race in order to comply with EEO-1 regulations, this case may provide useful precedent in the event that there is ever disclosure of the information gathered.