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Griggs v. Duke Power Co

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Griggs (Plaintiff) was an African American employee of Duke Power Co. (Defendant) who challenged Defendant’s job requirements as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because they disparately impacted African American applicants and were not tied to job performance.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When employment requirements have a disparate impact on minorities and are not related to successful job performance, they violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even when there is no discriminatory intent.

    Facts.

    Defendant had a policy requiring that applicants for certain jobs have a high school diploma and a certain score on an intelligence test. These requirements disparately impacted African American applicants. Plaintiff was an African American employee of Defendant. He sued, claiming that the policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the requirements were not related to job performance and had a discriminatory impact. Evidence was introduced that showed employees hired into these positions before the requirements were enacted who did not possess high school diplomas or the requisite intelligence score performed the job satisfactorily and progressed in their departments. The trial court and court of appeals found no discriminatory intent behind the policy and held that Title VII had not been violated. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    When employment requirements have a disparate impact on minorities, but no discriminatory intent, can those requirements violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

    Held.

    (Burger, C.J.) Yes. When employment requirements have a disparate impact on minorities and are not related to successful job performance, they violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even when there is no discriminatory intent. The Civil Rights Act dictates that arbitrary and unnecessary obstacles that result in employment discrimination based on race be eliminated. Where an employment practice that is not related to job performance works to keep African Americans out of certain jobs, it is prohibited even if the employer does not intend to discriminate. Not everyone is guaranteed a job regardless of qualifications, but when the qualifications work to discriminate and are not related to an ability to perform the job, they are prohibited. The evidence here showed that employees who did not have these qualifications performed satisfactorily and progressed in their departments. Therefore, the requirements for a high school diploma and intelligence score have not been shown to bear a reasonable relationship to successful performance of the jobs for which they were required. These requirements violate Title VII even without evidence of a discriminatory intent. Reversed.

    Discussion.

    In other portions of the opinion, the Court in Griggs, held that the burden of establishing an employment requirement’s relationship to the performance of a job lies on the employer. Before Griggs, the employee or applicant had the burden of establishing a discriminatory intent behind an employment requirement. Following this decision, plaintiffs had only to prove discriminatory impact from hiring or advancement standards to succeed. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 codified this standard.


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