Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do you know? Affirmative action and reverse discrimination

Many employers have affirmative action plans. However, just because you have a plan does not mean that the plan should be the only decision-making factor in hiring employees. In fact, sole reliance on an affirmative action plan in hiring could lead to a claim of reverse discrimination. In Humphries v. Pulaski County (8th Cir. 9/3/09) [PDF] examined the case of a white employee turned down for every promotion for which she applied in favor of African Americans. The court held:

[E]vidence that an employer followed an affirmative action plan in taking a challenged adverse employment action may constitute direct evidence of unlawful discrimination. If the employer defends by asserting that it acted pursuant to a valid affirmative action plan, the question then becomes whether the affirmative action plan is valid under Title VII….

To be valid, an affirmative action policy must be narrowly tailored to meet the goal of remedying past discrimination. It cannot, however, be used to maintain racial quotas. In the court’s words, it cannot be used to “unnecessarily trammel the rights of non-minorities.”

If your business has an affirmative action plan, use it as a factor in hiring decisions, but not the only factor.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.