The Supreme Court ruled that plaintiffs must show a discriminatory intent, not merely a disparate impact, to prevail under the equal protection requirements of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
In 1970 African American plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of a hiring and promotion policy of the District of Columbia police department. They objected to the use of Test 21, which attempted to measure verbal skills and reading ability, because African American applicants failed the test at a rate four times that of white applicants. They were encouraged by Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
By a 7-2 vote, the Court upheld the use of the examination. Justice Byron R. White’s
The Washington decision did not disturb the Court’s earlier rulings in regard to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting many employment requirements that had a disproportionate effect on minorities. It also actually had little influence in regard to the racial effects of employment requirements because Title VII was expanded to include governmental employees in 1972. The decision was important, however, for nonemployment cases such as McCleskey v. Kemp
Civil Rights Acts
Due process, substantive
Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
McCleskey v. Kemp
Race and discrimination