Gang Ties Do Not Amount To National Origin Discrimination

Written on 06/10/2022
Will Aitchison

Scott Rice was born in the En­glewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He was hired as a Corrections Officer with the Cook County De­partment of Corrections (DOC) on November 13, 2006 and served in that role until his termination on March 4, 2021. Throughout his employment as a Corrections Officer, Rice maintained relationships with individuals he had known since his youth who have been affiliated with gangs and have previous felony convictions.

The Cook County Sheriff ’s Of­fice, the County’s Merit Board, and the DOC have numerous policies prohibiting interactions between offi­cers and convicted felons and known gang members. Those policies are found in the Sheriff ’s Office Orders and Rules of Conduct, DOC General Orders, and the Merit Board Rules and Regulations. When Rice’s gang acquaintances came to light, the DOC fired him. Rice sued, challenged the gang prohibitions on the grounds they amounted to discrimination on the basis of national origin.

Rice’s core argument was that by applying the gang affiliation and other general orders against him, the County discriminated against him as those who grow up in areas such as Englewood, due to “higher rates of policing” and “higher rates of arrest, indictments, and convictions,” are more likely to have associations with persons with criminal backgrounds than individuals who grow up in ar­eas with lower rates of policing and arrest, indictment, and conviction rates, specifically “white or wealthier neighborhoods.” Thus, Rice claimed that his national origin – that is, being from Englewood, Chicago, Il­linois – led to violations of the Equal Protection Clause and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The Court was unconvinced by Rice’s argument, noting that “the Supreme Court held that the term ‘national origin’ and ‘ancestry’ have similar meanings in this statute, meaning the country from which you or your forebears came. Rice’s claimed national origin is from Englewood, Chicago, Illinois.

“Englewood, despite its unique characteristics, is ‘from this land.’ The Court therefore strikes all references to national origin discrimination in Rice’s complaint.”

Rice v. Dart, 2022 WL 1045641 (N.D. Ill. 2022).

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