Case Study: The Supreme Court of the United States Case of Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971)


The case against Duke Power Company was brought forth from a lawsuit from black workers who were challenging the imposed diploma requirement by the management team to be accorded promotions and be hired in the institution. The job necessity further required the passing of an intelligence test, both of which the plaintiff perceived as a discrimination against the people of color since a large percentage of the black population did not have a high school diploma (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). The discrimination intent was deduced from the fact that the imposed requirement was not compulsory to carry out the responsibilities of the job. However, the rationalization was not sufficient as the Act VII of the Civil Rights Act enacted in 1964 prohibited discrimination on the grounds of racial affiliation, ethnicity, or nationality and not on the foundation of approved job qualifications. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendant and stated that Title VII did not forbid imposition of legally acceptable job

requirements even though the ratio of black to white people who were employed and promoted was unfavorable to the people of color (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). The court stated that there were no direct stipulations in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that supported the claims by the plaintiffs. However, the court of appeal reviewed the ruling by the district court and ruled that camouflaged discrimination was not legally allowed. It conferred with the statement of the district court that Title VII does not proscribe the imposition of job requirements (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). The high court judge stated that just because the conditions were not in favor of the minority group, on the ground of color affiliation, in terms of job employment and promotion the claim that the necessities were not lawful was not viable.

Factors Laid Out by Chief Justice Berger that affect Equal Employment Legislation

Chief Justice Berger stipulated that the high court granted the review of the case in order to set directives to be used in future cases pertaining the issue of discrimination and how it relates to Title VII of the Civil Right Act (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). The specific issue that was to be determined was whether or not the employer was proscribed by Title VII from imposing particular education requirements and intelligence test in job scrutiny and promotion mechanisms. The judge stipulated that the court wanted to determine such concepts in specific cases such as when:

  1. Standards required are not effectively correlated with the job description (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). That is, they do not determine the degree of job performance.
  2. The requirements are instigated to intentionally disqualify people of color from attaining the job vacancies and promotions in other words, where the requirements were subject to discriminatory repercussions.
  3. The job description had previously witnessed an influx of white employees making the company practice preferential treatment in favor of the whites.

From the notion, it is stipulated that Berger projected three factors that affect equal employment legislation and they entail ineffective setting of standards, discriminatory practice, and former practices of an organization. While the court held that under Title VII the job requirements were lawful, the legislation was purposed to promote equal employment opportunities among all member of society regardless of ethnicity, nationality, or racial affiliation.

The relevance of the Case to Human Resource Management

The case is fundamental as it conveys directives on how Human Resource (HR) management structure their job requirement policies. The concept is especially true in the considerations of how laws of discrimination against minority work. Such cases have been prevalent in US courts which have prompted the enaction and review of multiple legislation. In the case between Griggs v. Duke Power Company HR can deduce how Title VI is implemented and how an organization can structure its activities to avoid adverse legal repercussions. For instance, in enaction of a contract, the HR can adhere to the regulations that any person regardless of physical and genetic differences can enforce a legal contract. Therefore, discriminating on the foundation of color like infringing a contract just because a person is black or from another nation attracts negative legal consequences. Moreover, the case shows a planning frame of what is required by Title VII. For instance, the law states that differential treatment such as diverse compensations, situations, and incentives provided to people only on the grounds of their color, sex, religion, nationality is illegal in the US (“Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971),” 2019). Title VII also stipulates that discriminating while hiring and not providing equal opportunity to all members of society is unlawful. Consequently, HR is empowered to practice public empowerment measures that ensure the evasion of legal problems in employment criteria.

Own Perspective About the Outcome of the Case

In my opinion, the ruling of the case was not right because even if there was a deficiency of direct linkage of discrimination and the employment criteria, the historical and practice in the company showed differential treatment. For instance, investigation of the institution indicated that the horizontal representation of people was in favor of the whites as they occupied well-paying jobs and also the less strenuous employment. People of color were mostly in the labor and operating department which was labor-intensive. The remuneration for such positions was substantially low compared to higher positions, which were mainly represented by the white. In the historical context of the case, most of the black people at the time did not have high school diplomas and relied on manual labor to make ends meet. Therefore, the incorporation of the high school diploma in the employment and promotion criteria had a direct negative implication on equal employment which discriminated against the people of color. Before the high school diploma requirement, Duke Power Company has previously enacted a policy that directly prohibited the employment of blacks in certain departments, except the labor groups. The situation shows that the institution was acting on a stereotypic paradigm where the blacks were not considered as intelligent as the white. The diploma requirement was only used as a camouflage to hide the true intent of the company. Hence, with the justification of Title VII, the company was empowered to continue its discriminating behavior. In my opinion, amendments should be enacted that allow for extensive scrutiny in such cases to completely eradicate differential treatment that favors the majority in society. Had the plaintiffs and the court critically analyzed the patterns of the company, discrimination would have been uncovered, and the company would not have been allowed to hide under the stipulations of Title VII.


Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971). (2019). Justia. Retrieved from

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