Pers. Adm'r of Mass. v. Feeney

442 U.S. 256, 99 S. Ct. 2282 (1979)



Discriminatory purpose implies more than intent as volition or intent as awareness of consequences. It implies that the decision maker, in this case a state legislature, selected or reaffirmed a particular course of action at least in part because of, not merely in spite of, its adverse effects upon an identifiable group.


Appellee was a female non-veteran who had lost several positions to male veterans despite her high test scores. She filed a claim against appellant, the State of Massachusetts, and twice argued successfully before the district court that Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 31, § 23, the veterans' hiring preference statute, violated the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV by discriminating on the basis of sex.


Did the Massachusetts Veterans Preference Statute, which grants an absolute lifetime preference to veterans, violate the equal protection clause for being discriminatory to female applicants?




On appeal, the Court reversed. After a close examination of the statute, the Court found that although the result of the statute had a disproportionate impact on women, it had not been enacted in order to discriminate against women. The statute contained gender neutral language. Because the statute was gender-neutral on its face, the Court considered first whether the statutory classification was neutral and then whether the adverse effect reflected invidious gender-based discrimination. The statutory classification was neutral because it was intended to discriminate against non-veterans, not against women. Female veterans were entitled to its benefits. Moreover, the legislative purpose had not been to invidiously discriminate against women.

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