SCOTUS Affirmative Action Decisions Could Impact Workplace DE&I Programs

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in two college affirmative action cases. In both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group, argues that affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina unfairly favor Black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants over white and Asian American applicants. The implications of the high Court’s decisions in these cases could be far-reaching and may go beyond academia to affect diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs in the workplace.

During oral arguments, some justices of the Supreme Court expressed doubt about the need for affirmative action policies in higher education. Ultimately, if the Court prohibits using race as a consideration in college admissions, it could also result in more court cases challenging the validity of DE&I programs in the workplace.

The college affirmative action cases before the Supreme Court will not impact affirmative action requirements for federal contractors. Those requirements are codified through regulations, statutes, and executive orders and are not at issue in the pending cases.

Although the college admissions cases require analysis under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which deals with education, as opposed to Title VII, which deals with employment, court rulings in these areas still tend to affect one another. As a result, employers will need to monitor the outcome of the affirmative action cases for potential implications for their DE&I programs.

Employers may wish to prepare for the possible consequences of these court rulings by reviewing their company policies and programs, emphasizing DE&I programs. For instance, employers should focus on whether current policies and programs impose or can be seen as imposing quotas based on race or other immutable characteristics. If so, then employers should refocus these programs to advance workplace diversity while avoiding specific quotas, such as by ensuring equal and fair opportunity and access to positions and promotions within the company. Nonetheless, employers should still acknowledge the value of a transparent DE&I program to uncover and eliminate unconscious bias in the workplace.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

The following two tabs change content below.

Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

Latest posts by Hall Benefits Law, LLC (see all)