Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture Decided

February 27, 2008

Whether public employees who are subject to arbitrary discrimination can raise an equal protection claim without also being required to show that the discrimination was based on membership in a protected class. DECIDED

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law applies to every "person," and therefore individuals who have been treated unequally by the government can raise an equal protection claim even if they only represent a "class of one." The question in this case is whether the same principle applies to public employees. The ACLU asserts that it does, in an amicus brief filed with a coalition of other civil rights groups. At a minimum, the brief argues, any rule that public employees must establish group membership to raise an equal protection claim cannot be read so broadly that it would sanction job discrimination based on age, disability or sexual orientation because those characteristics have not yet been treated as suspect classifications under the Constitution.

Status: Decided -- The Supreme Court restricts "class of one" claims but effectively preserves the ability of public employees to bring claims of sexual orientation discrimination.  The Court confirms that public employees may continue to bring equal protection claims if they suffer irrational discrimination based on a group-based characteristic.

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