A SMALL coterie of opponents to the Civil Rights Act of 1990 have sought to advance their cause by labeling the act ``a quota bill.'' Nothing could be further from the truth. The act does not mandate quotas. Nor does it even encourage or authorize the institution of quotas as one of the remedies available to victims of discrimination. The American Jewish Committee is an organization long opposed to quotas and is a strong supporter of the bill.
Behind the specifics of this legislation to restore and strengthen civil rights protections are people: people whose lives will be, and already have been, dramatically and negatively affected by the weakening of laws against employment discrimination. When members of our society are adversely affected, society itself stands weakened.
The Civil Rights Act of 1990 would remove substantial barriers to relief from employment discrimination that face women and racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, barriers that have resulted from several recent Supreme Court decisions that overturned established law.
Among its goals, the bill would reestablish a Supreme Court standard first developed in 1971 in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. Before the court reversed itself in the June 1989 Wards Cove decision, the Griggs precedent stood for nearly 20 years, without once resulting in racially based numerical quota systems.
The standard enunciated in the Civil Rights bill, taken nearly verbatim from Griggs, recognizes a fair distribution of legal responsibility in cases of employment discrimination by providing that, if a plaintiff links an employment practice with a discriminatory or disparate impact, the employer then must prove the business necessity of that practice. The initial burden upon the plaintiff is significant. The plaintiff must not only first prove that a statistically significant disparity exists that presents a pattern of discrimination, but also that a link exists between the specific employment practice or group of practices and the discrimination.
Thus, contrary to the bill's opponents, the Civil Rights Act would not permit an aggrieved worker to attack an employer's ``employment process'' merely because a racial imbalance exists. Rather, he or she must prove a causal connection. Only then does it become the burden of the employer to prove, as a defense, that the specific practice or group of practices ``bears a substantial and demonstrable relationship to effective job performance.''