Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971)

Abstract

Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) is a landmark in the United States regarding the selection or promotion of employees. In this case, the company was accused of discriminating against black workers in some of its departments. Employees invoked Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and challenged the requirements of high school diplomas and intelligent tests as a basis and discrimination to qualify for employment or transfer within units at the plant (Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 1971).

Under the Act, it is unlawful for the employer to classify, limit or segregate the staff with the aim of depriving them of an employment opportunity (Howard, 2015). Moreover, the company leadership cannot use acts in a way that affects the status of employees based on color, national origin, sex or religion. Therefore, the ruling of the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) provides important lessons for human resource management practice.

 

Implications of the Case

The ruling of the case coined a phrase known as an adverse or disparate impact (Murphy & Jacobs, 2012). The term refers to practices in employment that may look neutral but may have a discriminatory effect on a protected group. In human resources management, such aspects include hiring, promotion, appraisals, transfer, training, and layoffs (Howard, 2015). Human resource managers should develop procedures that aim at recruiting or promoting the best employees in all activities. It is however important for the leadership to develop tests, the effects and limitations of which for the organization and job appropriateness are well known.

Furthermore, the Act of 1964 gave way to the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protecting against systemic discrimination in the workplace (Garrow, 2014). It enforces measures that aim at reducing unintentional biases in a business setting. Cases of intentional discrimination based on race, sex or religion are not common in business today. However, adverse impact discrimination occurs often because it is not intended. Companies can develop procedures that may lead to biasness without their knowledge. This type of discrimination, though unintended, can lead to judicial proceedings (Murphy & Jacobs, 2012).

It is important for managers to recognize that some procedures that may seem to offer equal opportunities may have disparate impacts on employees or job applicants. Moreover, they may still bring no benefits to the organization or a particular job position. For instance, in the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971), the respondent felt that the one had done away discrimination to comply with the Civil Rights Act. However, employees felt there was still discrimination even though the employer saw a neutral employment procedure.

The case has shown that lawsuits are expensive for any business and avoiding those saves the company’s resources (Garrow, 2014). It is important to question the criterion used for hiring or promotion, specifically its relevance to a job opportunity. The approach allows for the screening of any adverse impact discrimination. Title VII prohibits the disparate treatment of employees (Murphy & Jacobs, 2012). It requires employers to subject candidates or employees to the same testing and treatment procedures. This law also prevents companies from using tests for selection that leads to the effect of disproportionate exclusion of workers and candidates based on religion, color, race or sex (Murphy & Jacobs, 2012).

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The Act is known as disparate impact or adverse impact discrimination. The law requires tests and procedures to be related to a vacant position. In Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) lawsuit, the complainants pointed out that the requirement of high school completion did not directly measure success. Offered standardized tests were not related to the job. Thus, adverse impact discrimination was evident in this case (Player, 2013).

The case teaches that human resource managers should be aware of the law and act accordingly. Very few professionals in this field view disparate impact discrimination as a serious issue. However, the violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity law may amount to losses to companies. Typical managers may not always recognize adverse impact discrimination as long as intentional discrimination is not evident (Player, 2013).

They have a duty to look into the set requirements and procedures and identify disparate treatment and disparate impact. The human resource manager should focus on the treatment of employees from their hiring to the layoff and identify any action that may lead to the violation of the EEO laws (Player, 2013). Such a professional plays a critical role in preventing lawsuits that may emanate from hiring, promotion or transfer of workers.

Furthermore, the human resource manager has the role of communicating with the heads of business how various procedures may lead to litigation. In many cases, arguments may look strange, but HR professionals should not stop explaining. They should also educate employees on the legitimacy of the related procedures because some of them may see discrimination when it does not exist (Player, 2013). Discrimination laws are enforceable in the United States and a few European countries. It is thus important for HR professionals to have the respective knowledge due to globalization.

Conclusion

The Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) case led to insights that cannot be treated as discrimination in normal circumstances. The requirements for employment that included high school qualifications and aptitude tests showed adverse impact discrimination in relation to black American employees. Therefore, HR professionals play an important role in advising their seniors on the importance of avoiding such practices, which may lead to losing funds in lawsuits.

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