United Steelworkers v. Weber
United Steelworkers of America v. Weber, 443 U.S. 193 (1979), was a case regarding affirmative action in which the United States Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not bar employers from favoring women and minorities. The Court's decision reversed lower courts' rulings in favor of Brian Weber whose lawsuit beginning in 1974 challenged his employer's hiring practices.
|United Steelworkers v. Weber|
|Argued March 28, 1979|
Decided June 27, 1979
|Full case name||United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO-CLC v. Weber et al.|
|Citations||443 U.S. 193 (more)|
93 S. Ct. 705; 35 L. Ed. 2d 147
|Prior||Weber v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp., 415 F. Supp. 761 (E.D. La. 1976); affirmed, 563 F.2d 216 (5th Cir. 1977); rehearing en banc denied, 571 F.2d 337 (5th Cir. 1978); cert. granted, 439 U.S. 1045 (1978).|
|Subsequent||Rehearing denied, 444 U.S. 889 (1979); vacated and remanded, 611 F.2d 132 (5th Cir. 1980).|
|United Steel workers of America did not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as their affirmative action plan attempted to help minority workers and did not prevent other employees from advancing.|
|Majority||Brennan, joined by Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun|
|Dissent||Rehnquist, joined by Burger|
|Powell and Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.|
|Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964|
Brian Weber was 32 years old, and worked as a laboratory assistant at a chemical plant. His company, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corp, had a policy of allowing whites and blacks into a training program on a one-to-one basis, even though there were many more whites than blacks. This came from a collective agreement with United Steelworkers of America. Weber did not get in. More training would have led to a pay raise. Weber claimed this violated Title VII. The company and the union argued it was pursuing affirmative action to remedy historical disadvantages among blacks.
By five to two the Supreme Court held that the affirmative action plan was lawful. The majority (Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall and Blackmun JJ) held that Title VII did not prohibit all kinds of affirmative action programs. They held that the plan of affirmative action must be transitional in nature and serve in fact to correct situations of imbalance by restoring equality at the starting point and should not set out to reproduce them artificially even when the effects of past discrimination have been wiped out. An affirmative action plan has to be (1) necessary (2) aiming to correct a statistical imbalance (3) not result in an absolute bar to hiring non-minorities (4) temporary, with an end date or goal (5) allow flexibility for hiring non-minorities.
Chief Justice Burger, dissenting, said he might vote for it if he were a member of Congress but he was not, and Title VII explicitly prohibited that form of discrimination. Not having affirmative action was agreed to be the position when the Act was passed. He finished by quoting Benjamin Cardozo, The Nature of Judicial Process (1921) 141, warning to beware of the 'good result' and judges exceeding their authority to get it.
Justice Rehnquist dissented. He quoted George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) 181, where in a sudden jump, mid sentence, the government declares war on Eastasia instead, without blinking, and said this was like the approach to interpretation of the majority:
Thus, by a tour de force reminiscent not of jurists such as Hale, Holmes, and Hughes, but of escape artists such as Houdini, the Court eludes clear statutory language, “uncontradicted” legislative history, and uniform precedent in concluding that employers are, after all, permitted to consider race in making employment decisions.
He cited two senators explaining precisely that the bill would not require a deliberate attempt to maintain a racial balance, because that would be recruiting on the basis of race, which would be unlawful.
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 443
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