Griggs v. Duke Power Co.,
401 U.S. 424 (1971)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971)

Griggs v. Duke Power Co.

No. 124

Argued December 14, 1970

Decided March 8, 1971

401 U.S. 424


Negro employees at respondent's generating plant brought this action, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, challenging respondent's requirement of a high school diploma or passing of intelligence tests as a condition of employment in or transfer to jobs at the plant. These requirements were not directed at or intended to measure ability to learn to perform a particular job or category of jobs. While § 703(a) of the Act makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to limit, segregate, or classify employees to deprive them of employment opportunities or adversely to affect their status because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, § 703(h) authorizes the use of any professionally developed ability test, provided that it is not designed, intended, or used to discriminate. The District Court found that respondent's former policy of racial discrimination had ended, and that Title VII, being prospective only, did not reach the prior inequities. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, rejecting the holding that residual discrimination arising from prior practices was insulated from remedial action, but agreed with the lower court that there was no showing of discriminatory purpose in the adoption of the diploma and test requirements. It held that, absent such discriminatory purpose, use of the requirements was permitted, and rejected the claim that, because a disproportionate number of Negroes was rendered ineligible for promotion, transfer, or employment, the requirements were unlawful unless shown to be job-related.


1. The Act requires the elimination of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment that operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of race, and if, as here, an employment practice that operates to exclude Negroes cannot be shown to be related to job performance, it is prohibited, notwithstanding the employer's lack of discriminatory intent. Pp. 401 U. S. 429-433.

2. The Act does not preclude the use of testing or measuring procedures, but it does proscribe giving them controlling force unless

Page 401 U. S. 425

they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance. Pp. 401 U. S. 433-436.

420 F.2d 1225, reversed in part.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all members joined except BRENNAN, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Primary Holding

Even if there is no discriminatory intent, an employer may not use a job requirement that functionally excludes members of a certain race if it has no relation to measuring performance of job duties. Testing or measuring procedures cannot be determinative in employment decisions unless they have some connection to the job.


An employer imposed a requirement preliminary to employment or transfer of having a high school diploma or passing an intelligence test. These were general tests that were not related to aptitude for the particular job, but they were considered legal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as long as they were not intended or used to discriminate. The lower court found no discriminatory purpose in the employer's use of the preliminary requirements and did not find that they needed to be job-related, even though there was a disparate impact on African-American employees and prospective employees.


  • Jack Greenberg
  • James M. Nabrit III
  • Norman C. Amaker
  • William L. Robinson
  • Conrad O. Pearson
  • Julius LeVonne Chambers
  • Albert J. Rosenthal
  • George W. Ferguson, Jr.
  • William I. Ward, Jr.
  • George M. Thorpe
  • Lawrence M. Cohen
  • Francis V. Lowden, Jr.
  • Gerard C. Smetana
  • Milton A. Smith



  • Warren Earl Burger (Author)
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • William Orville Douglas
  • John Marshall Harlan II
  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr.
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Thurgood Marshall

Case Commentary

This case showed that discrimination could be found on the basis of disparate impact as well as an overtly discriminatory purpose. Employers thus could not camouflage their discriminatory intent through ostensibly neutral tests that disfavored certain groups without being targeted to test their job ability.

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