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Is This the Finale for the Disparate Impact Analysis?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action v. Mt. Holly marks the beginning of the assault on the application of the disparate impact analysis to discrimination claims. Disparate impact is one method of proving discrimination by governments, lenders and employers through the statistical effect of a policy without showing any discriminatory intent.

The Mount Holly case

Residents of a poor neighborhood in Mount Holly, New Jersey sued to prevent the town from implementing a redevelopment plan that involved replacing hundreds of low-income houses with more costly middle-income homes. The U.S. District Court said that the petitioners did not make a claim of discrimination by producing statistics that black and Latino residents would no longer be able to afford the housing in their neighborhood. The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed recognizing the case as a traditional case of illegal discrimination by means of disparate impact. We await the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Disparate treatment versus disparate impact in employment

California code and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit employment discrimination against numerous protected classes that traditionally suffered differential treatment. In many cases of employment discrimination, plaintiffs prove discrimination by showing disparate treatment or disparate impact.

Disparate treatment

The U.S. Supreme Court explains disparate treatment as a circumstance in which an employer discriminates against members of a legally protected group by treating them less favorably than other similarly situated employees. Plaintiffs must show that the employer intended to discriminate because of the employee’s membership in the protected class.

Disparate impact

Disparate impact occurs when an employer’s neutral policy or practice has a discriminatory effect on a protected class. For example, an employer might institute a test of employees’ stamina and physical strength for a certain position in a company. The test appears neutral but may exclude a disproportionate number of female candidates.

Proving employment discrimination can be very complicated, because few employers overtly express their discriminatory beliefs. Before filing a claim, consult with an experienced Los Angeles employment discrimination attorney.

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