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

Facts:
Duke Power had a company policy where in order to qualify for placement anywhere but the Labor Department, it was necessary to register satisfactory scores on two professionally prepared aptitude tests, as well as to have a high school education.

  • Whites registered far better on the Company’s requirements than blacks.
  • However, evidence showed that employees who had not completed high school or taken the tests had continued to perform satisfactorily and make progress in departments for which the high school and test criteria were required.

History:

  • The District Court dismissed complaint.
  • The Court of Appeals affirmed, in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

The courts basically rejected the idea of disparate impact and held that absent a discriminatory purpose, the requirements were permitted.

Issue:
Whether an employer is prohibited by Title VII from requiring a high school education or passing of a standardized general intelligence test as a condition of employment when neither standard is shown to be significantly related to successful job performance.

Holding:
Yes. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • 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.
  • ‘The Act proscribes not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.’
    • D can then avoid liability by showing ‘business necessity.’
    • I.e., Link between the tests and job performance.
  • Here, ‘on the record before us, neither the high school completion requirement nor the general intelligence test is shown to bear a demonstrable relationship to successful performance of the jobs for which it was used. Both were adopted without meaningful study of their relationship to job-performance ability.’

Rule: Broad aptitude tests used in hiring practices that disparately impact ethnic minorities must be reasonably related to the job.

Rule: Good intent or absence of discriminatory intent does not redeem employment procedures or testing mechanisms that operate as ‘built-in headwinds’ for minority groups and are unrelated to measuring job capability.

The importance of this cases that it recognizes even unintentional discrimination as unlawful.