Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
401 U.S. 424 (1971)

  • Duke Power had a company policy of only allowing African-American workers to be laborers, they could not be promoted to other areas of the company.
  • The day after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, Duke changed their policies to require employees to have high school diplomas and pass an 'aptitude test' to be promoted.
    • This disproportionally affected African Americans.
  • Griggs and other workers sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
    • Civil Rights Act 703 said that "it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer ' to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
      • But, 703(h) said that, "it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to give and to act upon the results of any professionally developed ability test provided that such test, its administration or action upon the results is not designed, intended or used to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin."
  • The Trial Court found for Duke. Griggs appealed.
    • The Trial Court had found that the discrimination had ceased when Duke changed their policy.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that a subjective test of the employer's intent should govern, and that in this case there was no showing of a discriminatory purpose in the adoption of the diploma and test requirements, so it fell under the 703(h) exception.
  • US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if such tests disparately impact ethnic minority groups, businesses must demonstrate that such tests are "reasonably related" to the job for which the test is required.
      • Employment tests that are not a "reasonable measure of job performance" are prohibited, regardless of the absence of actual intent to discriminate.
    • The Court reasoned that the objective of Congress in the enactment of Title VII is plain from the language of the Statute. It 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.
      • The Court reasoned that implied that "under the Act, practices, procedures, or tests neutral on their face, and even neutral in terms of intent, cannot be maintained if they operate to 'freeze' the status quo of prior discriminatory employment practices, even if the Act does not explicitly prohibit such behavior."
        • This language appears nowhere in the Act.
      • Basically the Court is saying that if you can't show another reason, then the courts will assume that there is an intent to discriminate. The burden of proof is on the employer.
    • The Court went to legislative history and looked at an amendment that was defeated which clearly included job-relatedness. The Court suggested that since Congress was considering job-relatedness, they probably intended the Act to cover it.
  • Basically, in this case, even though 703(h) explicitly says that a test must be intended to discriminate, they expanded Title VII to include any test that has the effect of discrimination, even if unintentional, unless the employer can explicitly show that there is another good reason for the test.
    • The Court has construed the law with a purpose interpretation, as opposed to reading the plain language interpretation.