This Note examines whether government employees should be able to assert so-called "class-of-one" claims against public employers under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Traditional equal protection claims allege that the government has impermissibly singled out the plaintiff for disparate treatment on account of his or her race, gender, or some other trait shared with a larger class of individuals. Such claims reflect the traditional understanding of the Equal Protection Clause as a prohibition on discriminatory group classifications. Class-of-one claims, however, merely allege that the plaintiff was intentionally singled out from other similarly situated individuals and subjected to unequal treatment for no rational, legitimate reason. The plaintiff need not allege that the discrimination was motivated by his or her membership in a larger class. Rather, the plaintiff is said to comprise a "class-of-one. " Recently, the Supreme Court held in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture that courts are barred from hearing class-of-one claims arising in the public employment context. Thus, government employees are now prohibited from asserting class-of-one claims against their employers. This Note traces the development of the class-of-one theory under the Equal Protection Clause and discusses its application in the public employment realm. This Note ultimately concludes that the Supreme Court's asserted rationales for eliminating the class-of-one rights of public employees do not hold up under close scrutiny and posits that the Engquist decision reflects a certain skepticism among the members of the Roberts Court concerning the social utility of litigation.
Matthew M. Morrison,
Class Dismissed: Equal Protection, the "Class-of-One," and Employment Discrimination After Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol80/iss3/6