• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court shifted the burden of proof from employers to employees in employment discrimination cases, making them harder to win.

Alaskan cannery workers claimed that a higher proportion of nonwhites were employed at low-paying jobs while a higher percentage of white workers held high-paying jobs. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled against the nonwhite workers, requiring employees to show that any disparity in the rate at which a disadvantaged group suffered from company policies was the result of specific business policies for which no good business justification could be offered. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Byron R. WhiteWhite, Byron R.;Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio[Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio] placed the burden of proof in employment discrimination cases on the employees. Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Harry A. Blackmun joined in John Paul Stevens’s dissent. Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall also joined in a dissent written by Harry A. Blackmun. This decision met with serious opposition and was set aside by the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which placed the burden of proof on the employer, requiring it to defend its practices.Discrimination, employment;Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio[Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio]

Civil Rights Acts

Employment discrimination

Equal protection clause

Labor

Reversals of Court decisions by Congress

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