476 U.S. 267 (1986), 84-1340, Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education

Docket Nº:No. 84-1340
Citation:476 U.S. 267, 106 S.Ct. 1842, 90 L.Ed.2d 260, 54 U.S.L.W. 4479
Party Name:Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education
Case Date:May 19, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 267

476 U.S. 267 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 1842, 90 L.Ed.2d 260, 54 U.S.L.W. 4479

Wygant

v.

Jackson Board of Education

No. 84-1340

United States Supreme Court

May 19, 1986

Argued November 6, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The collective bargaining agreement between respondent Board of Education (Board) and a teachers' union provided that, if it became necessary to lay off teachers, those with the most seniority would be retained, except that at no time would there be a greater percentage of minority personnel laid off than the current percentage of minority personnel employed at the time of the layoff. After this layoff provision was upheld in litigation arising from the Board's noncompliance with the provision, the Board adhered to it, with the result that, during certain school years, nonminority teachers were laid off, while minority teachers with less seniority were retained. Petitioners, displaced nonminority teachers, brought suit in Federal District Court, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause and certain federal and state statutes. Dismissing the suit on cross-motions for summary judgment, the District [106 S.Ct. 1844] Court upheld the constitutionality of the layoff provision, holding that the racial preferences granted by the Board need not be grounded on a finding of prior discrimination but were permissible under the Equal Protection Clause as an attempt to remedy societal discrimination by providing "role models" for minority schoolchildren. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The judgment is reversed.

746 F.2d 1152, reversed.

JUSTICE POWELL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE REHNQUIST, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concluded that the layoff provision violates the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 273-278.

(a) In the context of affirmative action, racial classifications must be justified by a compelling state purpose, and the means chosen by the State to effectuate that purpose must be narrowly tailored. Pp. 273-274.

(b) Societal discrimination alone is insufficient to justify a racial classification. Rather, there must be convincing evidence of prior discrimination by the governmental unit involved before allowing limited use of racial classifications to remedy such discrimination. The "role model" theory employed by the District Court would allow the Board to engage in discriminatory hiring and layoff practices long past the point required by any legitimate remedial purpose. Moreover, it does not

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bear any relationship to the harm caused by prior discriminatory hiring practices. Societal discrimination, without more, is too amorphous a basis for finding race-conscious state action and for imposing a racially classified remedy. Pp. 274-276.

(c) If the purpose of the layoff provision was to remedy prior discrimination, as the Board claims, such purpose, to be constitutionally valid, would require the District Court to make a factual determination that the Board had a strong basis in evidence for its conclusion that remedial action was necessary. No such finding has ever been made. Pp. 277-278.

JUSTICE POWELL, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE REHNQUIST, concluded that, as a means of accomplishing purposes that otherwise may be legitimate, the layoff provision is not sufficiently narrowly tailored. Other, less intrusive means of accomplishing similar purposes -- such as the adoption of hiring goals -- are available . Pp. 279-284.

JUSTICE WHITE concluded that respondent Board of Education's layoff policy has the same effect, and is equally violative of the Equal Protection Clause, as integrating a workforce by discharging whites and hiring blacks until the latter comprise a suitable percentage of the workforce. Pp. 294-295.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR concluded that the layoff provision is not "narrowly tailored" to achieve its asserted remedial purpose, because it acts to maintain levels of minority hiring set by a hiring goal that has no relation to the remedying of employment discrimination. Pp. 293-294.

POWELL, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST, J., joined, and in all but Part IV of which O'CONNOR, J., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 284. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 294. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which BRENNAN and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 295. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 313.

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POWELL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE POWELL announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, and in all but Part IV of which JUSTICE O'CONNOR joins.

This case presents the question whether a school board, consistent with the Equal [106 S.Ct. 1845] Protection Clause, may extend

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preferential protection against layoffs to some of its employees because of their race or national origin.

I

In 1972, the Jackson Board of Education, because of racial tension in the community that extended to its schools, considered adding a layoff provision to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the Board and the Jackson Education Association (Union) that would protect employees who were members of certain minority groups against layoffs.1 The Board and the Union eventually approved a new provision, Article XII of the CBA, covering layoffs. It stated:

In the event that it becomes necessary to reduce the number of teachers through layoff from employment by the Board, teachers with the most seniority in the district shall be retained, except that at no time will there be a greater percentage of minority personnel laid off than the current percentage of minority personnel employed at the time of the layoff. In no event will the number given notice of possible layoff be greater than the number of positions to be eliminated. Each teacher so affected will be called back in reverse order for position

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for which he is certificated maintaining the above minority balance.

App. 13.2

When layoffs became necessary in 1974, it was evident that adherence to the CBA would result in the layoff of tenured nonminority teachers while minority teachers on probationary status were retained. Rather than complying with Article XII, the Board retained the tenured teachers and laid off probationary minority teachers, thus failing to maintain the percentage of minority personnel that existed at the time of the layoff. The Union, together with two minority teachers who had been laid off, brought suit in federal court, id. at 30 (Jackson Education Assn. v. Board of Education (Jackson I) (mem. op.)), claiming that the Board's failure to adhere to the layoff provision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They also urged the District Court to take pendent jurisdiction over state law contract claims. In its answer, the Board denied any prior employment discrimination and argued that the layoff provision conflicted with the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act. App. 33. Following trial, the District Court sua sponte concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the case, in part because there was insufficient evidence to support the plaintiffs' claim that the Board had engaged in discriminatory hiring practices prior to 1972, id. at 35-37, and in part because the plaintiffs had not fulfilled the jurisdictional prerequisite to a Title VII claim by filing discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After dismissing the federal claims, the District Court declined to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the state law contract claims.

Rather than taking an appeal, the plaintiffs instituted a suit in state court, Jackson Education Assn. v. Board of Education,

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No. 77-011484CZ (Jackson Cty. Cir. Ct.1979) (Jackson II), raising in essence the same claims that had been raised in Jackson I. In entering judgment for the plaintiffs, the state court found that the Board had breached its contract with the plaintiffs, and that Article XII did not violate [106 S.Ct. 1846] the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act. In rejecting the Board's argument that the layoff provision violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the state court found that it

ha[d] not been established that the board had discriminated against minorities in its hiring practices. The minority representation on the faculty was the result of societal racial discrimination.

App. 43. The state court also found that "[t]here is no history of overt past discrimination by the parties to this contract." Id. at 49. Nevertheless, the court held that Article XII was permissible, despite its discriminatory effect on nonminority teachers, as an attempt to remedy the effects of societal discrimination.

After Jackson II, the Board adhered to Article XII. As a result, during the 1976-1977 and 1981-1982 school years, nonminority teachers were laid off, while minority teachers with less seniority were retained. The displaced nonminority teachers, petitioners here, brought suit in Federal District Court, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and other federal and state statutes. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court dismissed all of petitioners' claims. 646 F.Supp. 1195 (ED Mich.1982). With respect to the equal protection claim,3 the District Court held that the racial preferences granted by the Board need not be grounded on a finding of prior discrimination. Instead, the court decided that the racial preferences were permissible under the Equal Protection Clause as an...

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