The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is codified at Title 42, United States Code, Section 1981. More commonly referred to today as a "Section 1981" action rather than under its original title as "The Civil Rights Act of 1866," the law provides that "all persons" shall have the same rights of contract as "white citizens." The law was amended by Congress in 1991 as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. It is now held to prohibit intentional discrimination in the making of contracts against non-white citizens. Some courts have interpreted this to also include persons of foreign national origin. The statute has also been interpreted since the amendments in 1991 to prohibit a "hostile work environment" or racial harassment against non-whites.

In comparison to The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991), a lawsuit brought under Section 1981 has several advantages. First of all, there is no requirement for any pre-suit administrative filing with a government agency such as the EEOC. Secondly, there is no statutory limits on damages that can be awarded. Third, the statute of limitations for filing a cause of action is much greater - four years in Florida as opposed to only 300 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act to file claim under Title VII.

Section 1981 does not apply to sex, age, disability or handicap discrimination. Presumably, it would not apply in reverse discrimination cases. Non-whites are the "protected" category of persons.


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