Review by Tim Fay
Taxman v. Piscataway (1996) -- No one in this infamous case ever disputed the fact that the Piscataway
school board fired Sharon Taxman simply because she was white.
Due to budget shortfalls, in 1989 the local school board was faced with the need to fire
one of their business teachers. The choice was between two teachers with the least
seniority in the department -- Sharon Taxman who is white, and Debra Williams who is
black. Both had been hired on the same day several years earlier, and both had
exemplary personnel records and identical qualifications.
The board fired the white teacher, Ms. Taxman, and publicly stated their reason for doing
so: in order to preserve diversity. In other words, the white teacher had to
go solely because of the color of her skin.
Ms. Taxman sued and the case made its way through the lower courts up to the third circuit
court of appeals. In 1996 the entire third circuit court ("en banc") ruled
8 to 4 in favor of Ms. Taxman's claim that her rights under Title VII had clearly been
Judge Sam Alito
joined the 8 judge majority opinion, which stated in part:
"It is clear that the
language of Title VII is violated when an employer makes an employment decision based upon
an employee's race. The Supreme Court determined in United Steelworkers v. Weber, 443 U.S.
193 (1979), however, that Title VII's prohibition against racial discrimination is not
violated by affirmative action plans which first, 'have purposes that mirror those of the
statute' and second, do not 'unnecessarily trammel the interests of the [non-minority]
employees.' We hold that Piscataway's affirmative action policy is unlawful because it
fails to satisfy either prong of Weber. Given the clear antidiscrimination mandate of
Title VII, a non-remedial affirmative action plan, even one with a laudable purpose,
cannot pass muster. . . ." Taxman v. Bd. of Educ. of the Township of Piscataway, 91
F.3d 1547 (3d Cir. 1996) (en banc).
Last known link:
"President Should Enforce the Civil Rights Laws as Written;
Administration Sanctions Race-Based Layoffs
(From the U.S. Senate, Republican Policy Committee, June 10, 1997)>>
v. Marriott Hotels (1997) -- In the Bray case, a black employee of the hotel claimed she was passed
over for a promotion in favor of a white employee. The plaintiff wanted to cite
violations of internal hiring procedures and conflicting explanations by supervisors as
evidence of racial bias. The problem with her complaint of racism was that
Marriott's actions were facially race-neutral; there was no direct evidence of racism or
intent to discriminate.
Nonetheless, the three judge appeals panel ruled 2-1 in favor of Ms. Bray's claim of
racial discrimination. Judge Alito dissented in the 2-1 decision and warned that the
majority's approach would lead to "an unwarranted extension of the anti -
discrimination laws" because employers often fail to follow their internal procedures
"to the letter."
Last known link:
"Alito agreed that the black woman may have been 'treated unfairly' by her employer,
but ruled that she had produced too little evidence of racial discrimination to allow her
lawsuit to go forward. Marriott argued that the white woman whom they brought in for the
job had more training, had worked at a larger hotel and had supervised higher-ranking
In his dissenting opinion in
favor of Marriott, Alito wrote:
"I have no doubt that in the
future we are going to get many more cases where an employer is choosing between competing
candidates of roughly equal qualifications and the candidate who is not hired or promoted
claims discrimination. I also have little doubt that most plaintiffs will be able to use
the discovery process to find minor inconsistencies in terms of the employers having
failed to follow its internal procedures to the letter. What we end up doing then is
converting the anti-discrimination law into a conditions of employment law,
because we are allowing disgruntled employees to impose the costs of trial on employers
who, although they have not acted with the intent to discriminate, may have treated their
employees unfairly. This represents an unwarranted extension of the anti-discrimination
Last known link:
Capitol Hill Blue 11/22/05
v. Jackson Board of Education (1986) -- "A 1986 Michigan case, Wygant v. Jackson, struck down an
arrangement between a teachers union and local school board to lay off white teachers
before laying off blacks with less seniority to preserve minority hiring gains.
At the time, Samuel Alito was a young lawyer with President Reagan's administration.
"Alito signed a brief for the Reagan administration opposing the arrangement.
It suggested that such a system could teach students that 120 years 'after the end
of slavery, government may still advance some and suppress others, not as individuals but
because of the color of their skin.'
"The 5 to 4 decision striking
down the arrangement was nevertheless seen as a defeat for the Reagan administration,
because the court upheld affirmative action plans so long as they were carefully tailored
to remedy past discrimination."
Last known link:
Washington Post story "1985 Memo by Alito Has Legal Weight, Senators Say"
Thursday, November 17, 2005; Page A08
More stories and cases on
Samuel A. Alito's support for equal treatment under the law without regard to race or
ethnicity will be added as they become available.
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