Durbin, Murray Introduce Legislation to Ensure Victims of Discrimination Can Seek Damages In Court Following Harmful SCOTUS Ruling

New bill clarifies that people who experience emotional distress when discriminated against can seek justice under federal law

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), introduced legislation to clarify that victims of discrimination can seek damages for emotional harm under federal law after the Supreme Court curtailed their ability to do so in its April ruling in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller. 

The Clarifying Civil Right Remedies Act of 2022 ensures that people who suffer emotional harm because of discrimination they experienced have the ability to seek restitution under federal anti-discrimination statutes—recognizing that while discrimination may not cause a financial loss, it can and often does cause lasting emotional distress.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller is extremely harmful to those who have experienced emotional distress due to discrimination,” said Durbin. “The loophole that allowed this decision must be addressed immediately. That’s why I joined Senator Murray in introducing the Clarifying Civil Rights Remedies Act of 2022, which would clarify that damages for emotional harm are available to victims of discrimination. No one who faces discrimination should be subjected to this additional burden.” 

“Our antidiscrimination laws exist to protect against discrimination and ensure that when discrimination does occur, those who suffer it can seek the justice they deserve in court,” said Murray. “But a recent Supreme Court decision unfairly limited the ability of victims of discrimination to seek restitution in court. Our legislation will right this wrong, protect people’s dignity, and ensure that anyone who experiences humiliation, frustration, and emotional distress because of discrimination they faced at the doctor’s office, in the classroom, and in so many other settings can seek justice in our courts.”

In April, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts that victims of discrimination cannot sue under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Affordable Care Act to recover damages for emotional distress caused by illegal discrimination. The decision denies many victims of discrimination an appropriate remedy for the harms they have suffered.

The Clarifying Civil Right Remedies Act of 2022 makes explicit that remedies available for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act include compensatory damages, including for emotional harm. The legislation ensures that victims have recourse and that incentives exist to encourage recipients of federal funds to comply with our federal civil rights laws.

“Public Justice is proud to support this important legislation, which would ensure that victims of discrimination have a meaningful remedy for the emotional harm that discrimination causes,” said Adele Kimmel, Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project Director. “As advocates for students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and student survivors of sexual harassment, we know from experience that survivors of sex- and race-based harassment often suffer severe emotional harm from schools’ failure to prevent and address harassment as required by federal civil rights laws. The Clarifying Civil Rights Remedies Act would protect the availability of this crucial remedy, which courts have been awarding to discrimination victims for decades.” 

In addition to Senators Murray and Durbin, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Baldwin, Blumenthal, Booker, Brown, Casey, Duckworth, Feinstein, Kaine, Sanders, and Whitehouse.

The legislation is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Public Justice Center, the Arc of the United States, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Black Justice Coalition, The Trevor Project, American Atheists, End Rape on Campus, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Know Your IX, Just Solutions, and Japanese American Citizens League.

A one-pager on the legislation is available here.

Read full text of the bill here.