Reverse Discrimination in the Workplace

Reverse Discrimination in the Workplace

Since the 1970's, the overall issue of reverse discrimination has been increasingly been brought to the forefront. Part of the reason for this was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This outlawed racial segregation at polling stations, in the workplace, education and any other facilities or services that were provided to the general public. To enforce the different provisions of the act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created. They would use one of the mechanisms (racial hiring quotas), to force various instances of discrimination to end. (Skog, 2007) However, this system would spark counter claims from the majority, who believe that these laws discriminate against them, based on the fact that someone is in the minority. This would lead to a series of law suits, alleging instances of racial discrimination. Where, someone was hired for a particular job based on the fact that they belong to a certain racial group, not who is the most qualified. A good example as to how serious the situation was becoming; occurred in the Supreme Court case Regents of University of California vs. Bakke. This 1978 decision, said that applying racial quotas in education was illegal. This is because, setting an arbitrary number as to who should be admitted, is in itself a form of discrimination by not going after the most qualified candidate. ("Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke," 2009) Since quotas are a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meant that it would only be a matter of time until this aspect of the law would be challenged in workplace, through a series of cases. As a result, this has caused the role of reverse discrimination to take on an evolving one, as various lawsuits are shaping how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is enforced. It is through examining the most significant cases that have occurred; that will provide the greatest insights as to how they are shaping the law.

The Issue of Reverse Discrimination in the Workplace Today

The more time that passes since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the clearer it is becoming that the overall economic mobility of African-Americans have improved. While more needs to be done in certain areas; in the aspect of the workplace, the existing laws are starting to become obsolete. Especially when you consider the fact that there is now an African-American as President. What is happening, is the various provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, quotas in particular, have become a major sticking point for a number of reverse discrimination law suits. This is because, the overall issue of quotas is dictating to hiring managers who they should be hiring. While it is important, to ensure that everyone should be treated fairly, quotas take this away by forcing a certain number of candidates to be hired for certain positions, based on their racial group. Over the course of time, this has morphed into a twisted quota system that discriminates against nearly everyone. A good example of this can be seen in the recent United States Supreme Court Case, Ricci v. DeStefano. What happened was; the city of New Haven, Connecticut had an exam for determining who would be promoted to supervisor in the fire department. After one Latino and no African-Americans met the minimum requirements, the city threw out the results. The Latino and white firefighters who met the basic requirements claimed; that the city engaged in reverse discrimination by throwing the test scores. In a 5 -- 4 decision, the Supreme Court agreed. With Justice Anthony Kennedy saying, "The city looked at the results, and it classified the successful and unsuccessful applicants by race. And you want us to say this isn't using race to decide (who should be hired) I have trouble with this argument." (Richey, 2009) What this shows, is that the quotas system was in place with the best of intentions. Yet, it has now affected hiring decisions because administrators and managers are afraid of being in violation of the law. The City of New Haven was afraid to hire someone based upon the fact that no African-Americans met the minimum requirements. This caused fears that there could be allegations of discrimination, in an era when such accusations can mean a flood of civil law suits, the results were thrown out. Then to make matters worse, the city claimed that it is not discriminating against the Latino and white firefighters, when clearly it was. (Mears, 2009)

However, to fully understand how the quota system is only fueling the overall amounts of reverse discrimination cases; requires that you look at series of Supreme Court and Federal Court decisions that have shaped how the law is applied. A good example, as to how these cases are shaping the ways that the law is applied to this matter, would include: the Supreme Court case United States vs. Paradise. In this 1987 case, the U.S. Supreme Court would hear arguments as to how the State of Alabama would promote black officers for the higher levels of command, within the department. After going through a series of procedures, it was determined that promoting one black officer for every one white officer would provide the greatest benefit. However, after engaging in such a policy for a year, a Federal Court told the department that they could scale back such procedures. At which point, the United States government brought a law suit against the state. Where, they allege that the state was in violation of the law by not having such a system in place. The state claimed that forcing them to engage in a one for one promotion system is reverse discrimination. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that the one for one policy was Constitutional. This is because it provides a limited scope, for helping advance opportunities for minorities. ("United States vs. Paradise," 2010) What this shows, is the overall mixed signals that many employers and governments are receiving from the courts. Where, under the law it is okay to have a one for one hiring system. Yet, if you slant the system towards a particular group or engage in policy for to long, you could using a form of reverse discrimination. This is significant, because the lower courts apply previous case law, to determine the most appropriate course of action. When you look at this Supreme Court decision, it tells employers that they must be hiring people who are in the minority for a certain amount of time. Yet, it does not tell them the length of time and how such a policy should be implemented. This only adds to the overall law suits, as employers are confused about what is most legal hiring policy that should be in place.

A third way that the quota system is fueling the overall amount of reverse discrimination cases; can be seen by looking no further than: the Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District Number 1. In this particular case, the Seattle School District allowed students, who are entering high school the chance to choose which school in the district they would like to attend. Because certain schools were more popular than others, which meant that some students would not be able to attend their first choice. To determine which students would go to what schools, a tie breaker system was developed. This used race as a way to ensure that school was in line with the racial demographics of the district. What made the system so controversial was the fact, that it distinguished whites from blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans as other. This separation between whites and the other minorities; was claimed, by the non-profit organization Parents Involved in Community Schools, to be in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What makes this case so intriguing is the fact that a previous Supreme Court case (Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education) banned school districts from assigning students to any school for the sole purpose of achieving racial integration and it refused to acknowledge racial rebalancing based on changes in demographics. In a 5 -- 4 decision; the Supreme Court sided with the school district. Giving the opinion of the court, Justice Stevens said, "The fact that Seattle has ceased using the racial tiebreaker pending the outcome here is not dispositive, since the district vigorously defends its program's constitutionality, and nowhere suggests that it will not resume using race to assign students if it prevails." What this shows is that when the school district is acting within the law, the overall way that the quota system is designed, means that slight variations could bring about civil rights law suits. This is important because the contradiction among the different Supreme Court cases such as that of Meredith vs. Jefferson County Board of Education, causes confusion as to if discrimination…