Law School Case Brief
Griggs v. Duke Power Co. - 420 F.2d 1225 (4th Cir. 1970)
While it is true that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e, is intended to have prospective application only, relief may be granted to remedy present and continuing effects of past discrimination.
Plaintiffs Willie S. Griggs and several others ("Employees") were African-American employees of the Dan River Steam Station of Duke Power Company in Draper, North Carolina, which was operated by defendant Duke Power Company ("Duke"). In 1955, Duke initiated a new hiring and advancement policy that required a high school education or it equivalent for all new employees, except for those employees in Duke's Labor Department. In 1965, Duke initiated a testing requirement for certain promotions for employees who were hired before Sept. 1, 1965, and who did not have a high school education or its equivalent requiring. Plaintiffs filed a class action against Duke in federal district court alleging that the educational and testing requirements preserved and continued the effects of Duke's past racial discrimination, thereby violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Duke filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granted and dismissed the complaint. The Employees appealed.
Was there a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when Duke's transfer policy required a high school education and achievement of minimum scores on two separate aptitude tests?
On appeal, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment. The court ruled, inter alia, that: (1) the evidence supported the district court's finding that prior to July 2, 1965, the effective date of Civil Rights Act of 1964, African-American employees were relegated to the Labor Department and deprived of access to other departments by reason of racial discrimination practiced by Duke; (2) the district court erred in holding that Title VII did not encompass the present and continuing effects of past discrimination; relief was available to remedy present and continuing effects of past discrimination. Thus, the previously-hired Employees were entitled to injunctive relief as the educational requirements should not have been invoked as an absolute bar to advancement but should have been waived as to those employees, and; (3) the later-hired Employees were not entitled to relief as the educational requirements had a genuine business purpose and Duke initiated the policy with no intention to discriminate against African-American employees hired after the adoption of the requirements.
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