Statistics can be an important source of proof in employment discrimination cases. Where gross statistical disparities can be shown, they alone may in a proper case constitute prima facie proof of a pattern or practice of discrimination. It is ordinarily to be expected that nondiscriminatory hiring practices will in time result in a work force more or less representative of the racial and ethnic composition of the population, even though Title VII imposes no requirement that a work force mirror the general population.
Respondent United States Attorney General filed a racial discrimination action against petitioner school district, alleging that it had engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminating against black applicants for teaching positions. Respondent presented evidence showing that in St. Louis County and St. Louis City 15.4 percent of the teachers were black, while petitioner's teaching staff was only 1.4 to 1.8 percent black. The lower court directed a verdict for respondent.
Did the lower court err in its decision to direct a verdict for the respondent?
According to the Court, the lower court failed to consider the possibility that respondent's prima facie statistical proof might have been rebutted by statistics of petitioner's hiring after the Civil Rights Act of 1964's (Act) enactment, which showed that after it became subject to the Act, 3.7 percent of petitioner's new hires were black. The lower court also failed to consider petitioner's contention that it should have considered St. Louis County alone as the relevant labor market, in which the percentage of black teachers was 5.7 percent, as St. Louis City had made special attempts to maintain a 50 percent black teaching staff. Following these conclusions, the Court vacated the lower court's judgment.