Connecticut v. Teal
Annotate this Case
457 U.S. 440 (1982)
U.S. Supreme Court
Connecticut v. Teal, 457 U.S. 440 (1982)
Connecticut v. Teal
Argued March 29, 1982
Decided June 21, 1982
457 U.S. 440
Respondent black employees of a Connecticut state agency were promoted provisionally to supervisors. To attain permanent status as supervisors, they had to participate in a selection process that required, as a first step, a passing score on a written examination. Subsequently, an examination was given to 48 black and 259 white candidates. Fifty-four percent of the black candidates passed, this being approximately 68 percent of the passing rate for the white candidates. Respondent black employees failed the examination, and were thus excluded from further consideration for permanent supervisory positions. They then brought an action in Federal District Court against petitioners (the State of Connecticut and certain state agencies and officials), alleging that petitioners had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring, as an absolute condition for consideration for promotion, that applicants pass a written test that disproportionately excluded blacks and was not job-related. In the meantime, before trial, petitioners made promotions from the eligibility list, the overall result being that 22.9 percent of the black candidates were promoted, but only 13.5 percent of the white candidates. Petitioners urged that this "bottom-line" result, more favorable to blacks than to whites, was a complete defense to the suit. The District Court agreed, and entered judgment for petitioners, holding that the "bottom line" percentages precluded the finding of a Title VII violation and that petitioners were not required to demonstrate that the promotional examination was job-related. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the District Court erred in ruling that the examination results alone were insufficient to support a prima facie case of disparate impact in violation of Title VII.
Held: Petitioners' nondiscriminatory "bottom line" does not preclude respondents from establishing a prima facie case nor does it provide petitioners with a defense to such a case. Pp. 457 U. S. 445-456.
(a) Despite petitioners' nondiscriminatory "bottom line," respondents' claim of disparate impact from the examination, a pass-fail barrier to employment opportunity, states a prima facie case of employment discrimination under § 703(a)(2) of Title VII, which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to "limit, segregate, or classify his employees" in any way which would deprive "any individual of employment
opportunities" because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. To measure disparate impact only at the "bottom line" ignores the fact that Title VII guarantees these individual black respondents the opportunity to compete equally with white workers on the basis of job-related criteria. Respondents' rights under § 703(a)(2) have been violated unless petitioners can demonstrate that the examination in question was not an artificial, arbitrary, or unnecessary barrier, but measured skills related to effective performance as a supervisor. Pp. 457 U. S. 445-451.
(b) No special haven for discriminatory tests is offered by 703(h) of Title VII, which provides that it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to act upon results of an ability test if such test is "not designed, intended, or used to discriminate" because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. A non-job-related test that has a disparate impact and is used to "limit" or "classify" employees is "used to discriminate" within the meaning of Title VII, whether or not it was "designed or intended" to have this effect and despite an employer's efforts to compensate for its discriminatory effect. Pp. 457 U. S. 451-452.
(c) The principal focus of § 703(a)(2) is the protection of the individual employee, rather than the protection of the minority group as a whole. To suggest that the "bottom line" may be a defense to a claim of discrimination against an individual employee confuses unlawful discrimination with discriminatory intent. Resolution of the factual question of intent is not what is at issue in this case, but rather petitioners seek to justify discrimination against the black respondents on the basis of petitioners' favorable treatment of other members of these respondents' racial group. Congress never intended to give an employer license to discriminate against some employees on the basis of race or sex merely because he favorably treats other members of the employees' group. Pp. 457 U. S. 452-456.
645 F.2d 133, affirmed and remanded.
BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 457 U. S. 456.