Griggs vs. Duke Power Corporation

Black-Run America: We are all on an escalator to nowhere (courtesy of The Simpsons)

How about a quick change of pace? How about a discussion of Griggs vs. Duke Power Corporation, one of the landmark US Supreme Court cases that joins the 1948 Shelley v Kraemer decision as “back-breaking” to the overall health of the nation:

In 1971, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power, which transformed our nation’s work places.  As a result of LDF’s advocacy, the Supreme Court embraced a powerful legal tool – now known as the “disparate impact” framework – that has proved essential in the fight to eradicate arbitrary and artificial barriers to equal employment opportunity for all individuals, regardless of their race. 
In Griggs, LDF represented a group of thirteen African-American employees who worked at the Duke Power Company’s Dan River Steam Station, a power-generating facility located in Draper, North Carolina.  Duke Power had a long history of segregating employees by race.  At the Steam Station, the best jobs were reserved for whites.  African-Americans were relegated to the labor department, where the highest-paid worker earned less than the lowest-paid employee in the other four departments where only whites worked. 

Shortly after Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, Duke Power stopped expressly restricting African-Americans to the labor department and announced new standards for hiring, promotion, and transfers.  In order to work in positions outside of the labor department, Duke Power now required a high school diploma or scores on standardized IQ tests equal to those of the average high school graduate.  These new requirements were not an improvement, however.  They effectively perpetuated the discriminatory policies that Duke Power had utilized prior to the enactment of Title VII.  Although the testing and diploma criteria disqualified African-Americans at a substantially higher rate than whites, Duke Power never established that they successfully measured ability to do the jobs in question.  Indeed, the white employees hired before the requirements were imposed performed entirely satisfactorily. 
In December 1970, Jack Greenberg, who succeeded Thurgood Marshall as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), presented argument in the Supreme Court on behalf of the African-American employees.  Another critical member of the litigation team was Julius Chambers, who later became LDF’s third Director-Counsel.

In a groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court ruled against Duke Power.  It held that Title VII “proscribes not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.”  The Court emphasized that Title VII in no way prohibits testing or diploma requirements for hiring or promotions.  Indeed, when they are properly developed and used, tests and other employment criteria can be effective, efficient means for employers to evaluate applicants.  But as the Court explained in Griggs, “What Congress has commanded is that any tests used must measure the person for the job and not the person in the abstract.”  The Court therefore held that when an employment practice operates to exclude African-Americans or other racial minorities, that practice is prohibited unless the employer can show that it fulfills a genuine business need and is a valid measure of an applicant’s ability to learn or perform the job in question.  Duke Power’s practices failed to meet these standards.

Long-time member of the SBPDL commenting community, Mr. Rational, left a thought-provoking response to a prior post that deserves re-posting here:

Mr. Rational said…

ZensterDo you think that maybe, just maybe, the modern working world has made it imperative to have that scrap of parchment in order to get a job when just a few decades ago a high school diploma could get you in the door at many high technology companies?

Why is that? Could it have something to do with Corporatism’s control over what was once a relatively Capitalist free-market economy?

Hanlon’s Razor applies to this one.  For a long time, college tuition was inexpensive and students often worked their way through a 4-year degree, graduating debt-free.  People could get good jobs without a degree, so the universities had little pricing power.

What changed that was the 1964 CRA and Griggs vs. Duke Power Corporation, which eliminated most employment qualification tests on the basis of “disparate impact”.  Academic degrees could still be used without running afoul of Griggs, so employers began requiring them in order to weed out the stupid and feckless.  This also added a lot of demand for university degrees, and the universities got pricing power.  They used it; who wouldn’t?

Basically, if we get rid of Title VII of the 1964 CRA and its successors, we eliminate “disparate impact” and the whole thing goes away essentially overnight.  Companies will lay off their diversity consultants and EEO compliance officers, and a huge chunk of BRA just collapses.

Oh, and Tim Wise is suddenly unemployable.

Is this the case that we should start researching? Is this a cause worthy of a legal defense fund that dares speak for the rights of the Historic American Majority (HAM) to take up in the courts?

Heartiste (The Artist Formerly Known as Roissy), back in early January 2012, published “How to Destroy the Education Racket“:

Academia. What a scam.

In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., in the first and most famous of the disparate impact theory cases, that the use of broad-based aptitude tests in hiring practices was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Around 1978, college tuition costs began to skyrocket, and haven’t let up since.

Coincidence? I think not.

The answer to busting the hyperinflationary tuition cost curve is to overturn the Griggs ruling. Employers, deprived of the opportunity to directly screen job applicants, have turned to the next available proxy tool of judgment: college degrees. Naturally, this initially caused the value of a college degree to rise, a stampede of mediocrities rushed into the hallowed halls, and then the college degree was gutted of its worth as employers began to realize how many useless grads academia was churning out. In the fallout, the game was ratcheted up a rung, tuition costs blew up because academia now had monopoly power over employer screening (think of academia as an entrenched and enriched middleman), and the master’s degree has become worth what the bachelor’s was in the past. And the bachelor’s degree? Well, say hello to communications and women’s studies majors.

Faculty and university admin, of course, hate the thought of Griggs being overturned, and disparate impact cases in general going the way of the dodo. Who could blame them? They know that “disparate impact” is code for “butters my bread”.

 Let’s open the floor to the SBPDL Community to discuss.



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