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Griggs v. Duke Power
[401 U.S. 424]
Burger Court,  Decided 8-0,  3/8/1971
Read the actual decision


Chief Justice Warren BurgerGriggs was the first major decision defining the applicability of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the area of employment law, and one of the first to confirm the Act's application to private endeavors in general. As such, this decision helped bring the contemporary interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment into conflict with the concepts of freedom and private property, trading one injustice for another.

Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Duke Power, in its Draper, NC facility, had clearly used discriminatory practices in its hiring and assignment of work, including reserving certain job classifications for blacks. When Title VII of the Act became effective in July, 1965, the company instituted various requirements for hire or transfer into the preferred white classifications, including successful completion of aptitude tests, and possession of a high school diploma.

When the tests were challenged by black employees as violations of the Act, the case wound up before the Supreme Court.

Although a pure view of freedom dictates that private enterprise be free to hire and promote as it wishes, subject only to common law and the acceptance or opprobrium of its community and the free market, the Court began its review of this case on logical legal ground -- that the clear evidence of past discrimination made Duke's new requirements suspect inasmuch as they were intended to continue the past practice, illegal under the Act. In finding for the plaintiffs, the Court ruled that seemingly neutral practices are unacceptable if they operate to maintain past discrimination.

Then the Court expanded its findings even further, stating that whether or not there is intent to discriminate is immaterial, that the evaluative methods used in hiring and promotion must not only be job-related, but must meet with the approval of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, tantamount to political review.

We're not done. Not yet satisfied, the Court went on to stipulate that it is not even enough that evaluative methods be neutral, not intended to discriminate, and reasonably job-related. If they do, in fact, produce a "disparate" outcome as regards a group protected by the Act, then they are invalid. In essence, the Court mandated the application of Affirmative Action -- still a relatively new doctrine which, according to Hubert Humphrey when he argued in its favor a few years earlier, would never dictate to any employer whom he must hire.

The combination of the Act, and the Court's affirmation, also introduced another new and blatantly questionable doctrine into American politics and jurisprudence, that of a "protected group". Naturally, besides being diametrically opposed to the concept of equality sought by the original civil rights efforts, this doctrine is also ripe for political power brokering by any group seeking admission to such "protection."

The Griggs decision clearly left the burden of proof on the employer to demonstrate that his employment practices were not discriminatory, and that any disparate effects were clearly justified by the business. Fortunately, decisions in Ward's Cove Packing v. Atonio and Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, both in 1989, shifted the burden of proof back where it belonged, onto the plaintiff. As the nineties wore into the twenty-first century, however, the willingness of the justice system to expect a defendant to prove his innocence in this sort of politically sensitive case has continued to expand in contravention to our common law foundations.

In its clear decision to allow the Fourteenth Amendment to operate against private endeavors, the Court continued to unravel its findings in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, wherein it had clearly established that the Amendment applied only to government at various levels. The Common Sense American shares that original view.


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Other decisions pertaining to Civil Rights:

Barrows v. Jackson    [346 U.S. 249 (1905)]  Warren Court
Batson v. Kentucky    [476 U.S. 79 (1986)]  Burger Court
Bernel v. Fainter    [104 S.Ct. 2312 (1984) (1905)]  Burger Court
Brown v. Board of Education    [349 U.S. 294 (1955)]  Warren Court
Civil Rights Cases    [109 U.S. 3 (1883)]  Waite Court
Craig v. Boren    [429 U.S. 190 (1976)]  Burger Court
Goesaert v. Cleary    [335 U.S. 464 (1905)]  Vinson Court
Grovey v. Townsend    [295 U.S. 45 (1935)]  Hughes Court
Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States    [379 U.S. 241 (1964)]  Warren Court
Hoyt v. Florida    [368 U.S. 57 (1961)]  Warren Court
Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.    [392 U.S. 409 (1968)]  Warren Court
Korematsu v. United States    [323 U.S. 214 (1944)]  Stone Court
Plessy v. Ferguson    [163 U.S. 537 (1896)]  Fuller Court
Powell v. Alabama    [287 U.S. 45 (1932)]  Hughes Court
Scott v. Sandford    [60 U.S. 393 (1857)]  Taney Court
Shelly v. Kraemer    [334 U.S. 1 (1948)]  Vinson Court
Smith v. Allwright    [321 U.S. 649 (1944)]  Stone Court
United States v. Cruikshank    [92 U.S. 542 (1876)]  Waite Court
United Steel Workers of America v. Weber    [443 U.S. 193 (1979)]  Burger Court
University of California v. Bakke    [438 U.S. 265 (1978)]  Burger Court

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