Griggs vs Duke Power Company: Discrimination Case

In Griggs v. Duke Power Company case, African American applicants proved that the company violates the Civil Rights Act while hiring in prestigious positions. In particular, the statistical data showed that the human resource management of the company required from candidates the obligatory presence of the Higher Education Diploma and passing tests on the graduate level. Applicants, who did not have the above-mentioned evidence, could be employed only in the less prestigious departments.

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Statistical data showed that among persons with higher education in North Carolina, there was only 12 percent of African American men and 34 percent of white men (Griggs v. Duke Power Company, 1971). The requirements established by the company did not allow applicants to express themselves if they could not meet the specified criteria. As a result, based on this and other statistical facts, the Supreme Court ruled that Duke Power Company policy discriminates against African Americans and violates the Civil Rights Act Title VII.


This case study represents the violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, namely, Equal Employment Opportunities part. It goes without saying that the company aimed at hiring more skilful and experienced employees. However, in pursuit of gaining benefits, it forgot about the paramount issue of human rights. The case reveals the concept of indirect discrimination that is one of the most important aspects developed in law, both in the texts and in respect of precedents. Linked to this concept, the method allows detection of hidden discrimination. In accordance with the directives, indirect discrimination occurs under the following conditions:

  1. there is a provision, criterion, or practice (regulation or practices applied in a company or country),
  2. which is a neutral (not a criterion),
  3. but can potentially be especially unfavorable for those, who meet one or more criteria, or
  4. can be particularly unfavorable to persons of the same sex in relation to persons of the opposite sex
  5. unless such a provision, criterion or practice is objectively not justified by a legitimate aim and if the means used to achieve it are not appropriate and necessary.

Thus, the three directives lead to a new and unique definition of indirect discrimination that emphasizes the unique character of the concept of discrimination.

Key Problems

This case is associated with the discrimination in the field of labor relations that is connected with economically unreasonable actions that hinder employment of the protected class of African Americans and people without higher education. The main conclusion of the judgment consisted in the statement that in cases of discrimination the consequences of actions of the employer are crucial.

Eliminate Discrimination

One of the key problems is discrimination itself. The employer should take into account only the professional and business qualities of an employee while hiring. Under the professional qualities of the employee, one should understand the ability of an individual to perform certain functions, taking into account his qualifications (for example, the presence of a certain profession, specialty, or qualification) and personal qualities. However, there should be no discrimination in hiring to different departments.

Offer Training

The shortage of the corresponding education might be considered as the second problem. It goes without saying that not all the positions require higher education but some skills and knowledge might necessary to be employed in a desired position.

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Possible Justification

Charges prima facie concerning the indirect discrimination might be denied in the case the employer is able to justify his actions to meet the challenges set out in the directives.

Possible Solutions

Eliminate Discrimination

In this connection, it seems appropriate to introduce a new management strategy that would prohibit employers to specify restrictions of a discriminatory nature (Dipboye & Colella, 2012). It would enable people to solve some of the problems with employment. Otherwise, administrative proceedings should be brought to any person or organization to disseminate information about job openings, which contains the restrictions of a discriminatory nature (Laer & Janssens, 2011).

Offer Training

The promotion at work taking into account labor productivity, qualifications, and length of service in the specialty as well as training and additional professional education are adequate measures to prevent discrimination and guarantee equal employment opportunities (Griffin, Learmonth, & Elliott, 2014). It is very important to point out that the training should be free and last at least two weeks so that applicants could properly understand their abilities and get necessary knowledge and skills. The training program might include digital media, textbooks, and team projects to provide interesting education and engage perspective employees in the corporate culture of the company.

Possible Justification

Unreasonable justification for discrimination

If the employer is able to demonstrate convincingly that his objectives are justified and applied appropriately and reasonably, prima facie charge of discrimination might is refuted (Light, Roscigno, & Kalev, 2011). Even if in the result of such a policy, individuals were subjected to adverse treatment, one cannot state that the policy is discriminatory. However, if an employer cannot fully justify his policy, he is charged with indirect discrimination.

Consequently, the justification of the employer should satisfy the conditions that effectively refute the accusation of the discrimination. To be accepted, the justification should meet the following requirements:

  1. it should be objective;
  2. it should be related to a legitimate objective, which is, by definition, excludes any form of discrimination.

Proposed Solution

Discrimination occurs when a humiliating differential treatment cannot be justified. At the same time, the overall effectiveness of the company primarily depends on the staff and their qualifications (Gutman, 2012). It should force employers to provide employees with adequate training also paying attention to those who apply for work and have no higher education. The provision of personnel with training can strengthen the company’s position in the market. In order to eliminate the current discrimination and avoid it in future, it is essential to take some measures concerning the human resource management.

First of all, it is necessary to offer applicants appropriate training programs to allow them getting the desired position. Second, the discrimination by race should also be eliminated as violates human rights. Finally, it is also of great importance to evaluate the situation adequately as there some cases described above when actions of the employer might be justified. All in all, employers should apply a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the employment discrimination.

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In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the conducted case study reflects key problems associated with the Civil Rights Act, Title VII violation, namely, the equal labor opportunities regardless of education and race. However, the implementation of the above mentioned possible solutions would lead to the elimination of the problems and applicants’ corresponding treatment.


Dipboye, R. L., & Colella, A. (2012). Discrimination at work: The psychological and organizational bases. New York, NY: Lawrence Psychology Press.

Griffin, M., Learmonth, M., & Elliott, C. (2014). Non-domination, contestation and freedom: The contribution of Philip Pettit to learning and democracy in organisations. Management Learning, 46(3), 317-336.

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

Gutman, A. (2012). EEO Law and Personnel Practices (3rd ed.). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Laer, K. V., & Janssens, M. (2011). Ethnic minority professionals’ experiences with subtle discrimination in the workplace. Human Relations, 64(9), 1203-1227.

Light, R., Roscigno, V. J., & Kalev, A. (2011). Racial Discrimination, Interpretation, and Legitimation at Work. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 634(1), 39-59.

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