• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court interpreted Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Law so that if employment practices have an adverse effect on minorities or women, employers are required to show that the practices are clearly related to job performance.

On July 2, 1965, the day that Title VII took effect, Duke Power instituted a new policy of requiring high school graduation and minimum grades on aptitude tests as requirements for jobs previously reserved for whites. Although the requirements applied to all races, the effect was to disqualify a disproportionate number of African Americans.African Americans;education[education] Only 12 percent of African Americans in North Carolina had completed high school, compared with 34 percent of whites in the state.Discrimination, employment;Griggs v. Duke Power Co.[Griggs v. Duke Power Co.]

By an 8-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the power company’s requirements violated Title VII. Chief Justice Warren E. BurgerBurger, Warren E.;Griggs v. Duke Power Co.[Griggs v. Duke Power Co.] explained that the purpose of the law was “to achieve equality of employment opportunities and remove barriers that have operated in the past to favor an identifiable group of white employees over other employees.” Whenever qualifications for employment have a disparate impact on minority groups, the employer has the burden of demonstrating that the qualifications are a reasonable measure of potential job performance.

Because of the cost and difficulty in validating job requirements, critics argue that the landmark Griggs decision put pressure on employers to discard reasonable requirements or to adopt hiring quotas. Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio (1989)[case]Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio[Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio] shifted the burden of proof to the plaintiff to show that employment practices were discriminatory, but the Civil Rights Act of 1991Civil Rights Act of 1991 returned the burden to employers.[case]Griggs v. Duke Power Co.[Griggs v. Duke Power Co.]

Affirmative action

Employment discrimination

Race and discrimination

Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio

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