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Wards Cove Packing v. Atonio

New Era

Griggs was considered a precedent-setting ruling, in part because it broadly interpreted the Title VII statute and placed the burden of proving the absence of discriminatory policy on the employer, not the employee or the protected group filing suit. Many companies, fearful of becoming defendants in such suits, reviewed the stratification of their workforce (a higher percentage of minorities in entry-level, low-wage jobs, for instance) and began to revise hiring and promotion practices to provide more opportunities for protected groups--in effect, implementing their own affirmative-action policies.

In the case of the Wards Cove employees, which dated back to 1974, a district court had rejected the plaintiff's claims, contending that a union hiring agreement was responsible for the predominance of nonwhite workers in cannery jobs. A higher court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, overturned that decision in 1987, saying that the plaintiffs had indeed shown that "disparate impact" had occurred through Wards Cove hiring practices and that the company and another cannery named in the suit were indeed obligated to prove through statistical evidence that employment tests were relevant to the jobs in question. The companies appealed the decision, and the case came before the Supreme Court during the 1988-89 term.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Wards Cove Packing v. Atonio - Significance, Title Vii, New Era, New Majority, Pro-business Climate, What Is White Collar Crime?