White Male Law Student Takes on the Chicago Bears for Racial and Gender Discrimination

May 17, 2024

By Michaela J. Kourmoulis


In November 2023, the Chicago Bears sent out a call for applicants for their “Legal Diversity Fellow” position to various law schools in the Chicago area, including DePaul University. Jonathan Bresser was a first-year law student at DePaul University College of Law who applied for the legal diversity fellow position. In the job posting for the position, the Chicago Bears listed their qualifications for the position, one of which being that applicants were a “person of color and/or female law student.” Later in December, an employee of the Bears viewed Bresser’s LinkedIn Profile, where his race and gender are clearly visible as a Caucasian male. Shortly after, in January 2024 Bresser received an email that his application was denied. This was prior to their receipt of his transcript and grades. Bresser met all of the other requirements listed on the job qualifications except for the requirement of being a person of color or female. Due to these factors, Bresser filed a charge against the Bears with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in February for racial and gender discriminatory hiring practices. The commission dismissed the charge and informed the Bears and Bresser that he had a right to sue. Immediately after receiving notice of the charge, the Bears organization sent Bresser an email asking him to submit his transcript with his grades.


The first counts brought against the Chicago Bears are considered potential violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The first discrimination violation is of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-2(a) which “makes it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire any individual or to otherwise discriminate against any individual on the basis of his or her race.” Bresser is Caucasian, which is a protected class under Title VII. The second discrimination violation is also of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-2(a) which “makes it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire any individual or to otherwise discriminate against any individual on the basis of his or her sex.” Bresser is a male, which is a protected class here also. The third Title VII violation is related to disparate impact race discrimination and disparate impact sex discrimination. “Title VII provides that an unlawful employment practice based on disparate impact is established when either an employee shows that an employment policy causes such a disparate impact and the employer fails to show “that the challenged practice is job-related. . . and consistent with business necessity,” or the employee shows there is an alternative way to serve the stated needs but the employer refuses it. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A).” In this case, being a person of color or female is neither required for the legal fellow position nor consistent with business necessity.

Bresser brought further counts based on Section 1981, in which “42 U.S.C. §1981 provides that all persons shall be entitled to the same rights to make and enforce contracts, and prohibits private actors from discriminating on the basis of race against those seeking to make and enforce contracts.” The sixth and seventh counts come from the Illinois Human Rights Act Race and Sex Discrimination saying that the Bears had willful and wanton disregard of Bresser’s rights. The eighth count is based on civil conspiracy, alleging that the Bears engaged in intentional racial and sex discrimination when considering applicants. The ninth count is a violation of section 1985 as a conspiracy to deprive Bresser of his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). According to Bresser’s complaint, this conspiracy targeted and interfered with his rights to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The tenth and final count is from Section 1986 as a failure to prevent conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights. This count is against anyone at the organization who could have stepped up and prevented the sex and race discrimination (Bresser v Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., 2024).

The initial status hearing on the case has been scheduled for May 15, 2024 (Meadows, 2024).


Bresser v. Chicago Bears Football Club, Inc., Case 1:24-cv-02034, (N.D. Illinois, 2024). Retrieved from https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/24478460-bresser-v-chicago-bears-complaint

Meadows, J. (2024, March 12). White male law student sues Chicago Bears for race, sex discrimination. Patch. Retrieved from: https://patch.com/illinois/lakeforest/white-male-law-student-sues-chicago-bears-race-sex-discrimination

Michaela J. Kourmoulis is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Covenant College. She also serves as the Sport Management program coordinator at Covenant and advises all of the sport management majors. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Troy University. She lives in Ringgold, GA with her husband and two daughters.

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