Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bravo Supreme Court

The Supreme Court released a decision yesterday regarding reverse discrimination. The "ruling that New Haven, Conn., wrongly discriminated against a group of mostly white firefighters who lost out when a promotion exam was scrapped because no blacks scored well enough to advance". Interestingly enough, there seems to be a great deal of debate on whether this ruling creates new problems for businesses or whether the new ruling provides clarity in relation to civil rights practices by employers. The decision shows that employers must be on solid ground before they make a decisions that discriminate against a certain group of employees irregardless of whether the group is a protected minority.

In the opinion of this author, Monday's ruling is a clear indicator that race cannot be the trump card in making employment decisions -- even in regards to protected groups. I hope that this ruling remedies some of the perceived and in certain cases actual perverse results of affirmative action laws. Since affirmative action was enacted there has been legitimate gripes that affirmative actions mandates reverse discrimination in order to counter-balance the history of gross racial inequality in the US. Affirmative action has major problems; it has left reverse-discriminated individuals with racially charged grievances, and it has added an unnecessary concern for businesses in employment matters. This ruling seems to say, as long as the business is doing all it can to make sure employment and advancement policies are fair to all employees, businesses should hire and advance employees by the employers normal policies irregardless of whether or not targeted/protected minorities are among those who qualify for employment and advancement. This is a ruling that clarifies affirmative action, and says it is okay for businesses to hire based of merit and qualification, and (should overtime) remove the incorrect perception that companies must reverse-discriminate in order to be compliant with Civil Rights statutes.

There is one problem. This ruling says that a company can ignore race as an employment factor if the company can show that it made sufficient effort to ensure employment decisions and policies are fair to all groups and races. How does a company prove that their employment policies and practices are fair to all races and groups? I think many employers will have to review their hiring and advancement practices to make sure they have policies in place that not only are fair to protected minorities, but policies that promote and hire qualified employees without using race as the determining factor. This will be difficult for for many entities that have history of reverse discrimination policies as a fail safe method to maintain the appearance of being compliant with affirmative action.

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