On Feb. 16, a U.S. appeals court ruled that “Hispanic” is a race.

In 2012, Christopher Barrella filed a racial discrimination lawsuit after the position of police chief for Freeport in Long Island, New York was given to a white Hispanic man, Miguel Burmudez. Barrella, a white man, was dismayed when former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick appointed Bermudez. Barella reportedly had a wider educational background and scored higher in the promotional test. Hardwick contended that no racial discrimination of any sort took place because "Hispanic" was not even considered a "race" to begin with. 

This claim was shut down by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The three judges ruled that "Hispanic" has long been considered as a "distinct race." The court also added that any act of bias against ancestry or ethnic traits is seen as discrimination. This assumes that racial discrimination cases are understood as racially motivated.

The appeals court also reportedly said that the relevant terminology has substantially changed over the years, which added to the confusion on whether Hispanic was a race. The court cited how decades ago, people’s whiteness determined their right to become an American citizen and how Spanish-heritage groups were tracked based on surnames.

Alternative terms were created that are still being used at present, such as “Hispanic” and “Latino.” Generally, the federal government treats Hispanic as a national origin and not a race.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals also took away that $1.35 million verdict that a jury previously gave to Barrella, based on a different evidentiary matter. The panel ordered a new trial, ruling that the trial court should not have let non-expert witnesses speculate Hardwick’s considerations in not selecting Barrella. In 2014, the jury awarded $1 million for lost future pay, $150,000 in back wages, $200,000 in punitive damages and attorney fees.

According to attorney Ken Novikoff, Hardwick believes that he will prevail at a retrial.

"With this decision squarely in our favor on all legal issues, we are confident that the new jury will find the same as the last jury and will fairly compensate Lieutenant Barrella for the employment discrimination he suffered,” said attorney Amanda Fugazy, Barrella’s lawyer.

More updates and details on the retrial are expected soon.