Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The necessary premise of the disparate impact approach is that some employment practices, adopted without a deliberately discriminatory motive, may in operation be functionally equivalent to intentional discrimination.
Petitioner Clara Watson, a black bank teller, was four times rejected in favor of white applicants for promotions to supervisory positions at the bank, which had not developed precise and formal selection criteria for the positions in question, but instead relied upon the subjective judgment of supervisors who were acquainted with the candidates and with the nature of the jobs to be filled. All the supervisors involved in denying the petitioner the four promotions were white. After exhausting her administrative remedies before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the petitioner filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and included allegations that the bank's promotion policies discriminated both against blacks as a class and against her individually, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USCS 2000e et seq.). After trial, the District Court, dismissing the petitioner’s individual claims, found that she had failed to make a sufficient showing under applicable evidentiary standards. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed in relevant part. Petitioner appealed, asserting that the subjective selection methods of the employer led to illegal discrimination and that the lower courts erred in failing to apply "disparate impact" analysis to her claims.
Did the lower courts err in failing to apply disparate impact analysis to petitioner’s claims?
The Court held that subjective or discretionary employment practices could be analyzed under the disparate impact approach. The Court did not address the other issues because the lower courts failed to evaluate the statistical evidence to determine whether the employee had made out a prima facie case of discriminatory promotion practices under the disparate impact theory. Accordingly, the judgment was vacated, and the case remanded for a determination under the disparate impact analysis.