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How the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling Will Impact Employers

By: Jessica MousseauDiversity Insights
How the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling Will Impact Employers

The world is undergoing a rapid transformation, with each passing day bringing new dynamics to the forefront. The 2020 United States Census shed light on the remarkable rise of various racial and ethnic groups within America, especially the Latino, Hispanic, Asian American, and multiracial communities. This surge in multiracial population growth has ushered in an era of unparalleled racial and ethnic diversity. Amidst this backdrop of transformation, affirmative action stands as a significant point of discussion. While the concept itself isn’t new, its relevance and implications have taken on new dimensions.

According to the US Census Bureau, the U.S. is 57.8% white, 18.7% Hispanic, 12.4% Black, and 6% Asian. Also, nearly 33.8 million people reported being more than one race, which is nearly three times more than 9 million people reported being multiracial in 2010.

The subject of race remains a highly contentious topic, as shown by the activism of groups like Black Lives Matter. Additionally, the effects that some recent Supreme Court rulings have made on society cannot be understated.  While this emerging diversity is good news, addressing the impact of the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action on minority rights is a crucial concern for many Americans.

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Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is a set of policies aimed at promoting work and educational opportunities for minority groups. While there have been more opportunities given to these communities than ever before, they still experience barriers in education and employment. This program helps prevent discrimination based on gender or race.

In June 2023, the Supreme Court made a historic decision with Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v President and Fellows of Harvard College. Their 6-2 decision struck down affirmative action by saying that race-based programs during college admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. This essentially ends the ability of higher institutions to consider race as a factor when deciding if an applicant is qualified to be admitted.

The Importance of Affirmative Action for Minority Rights

Protecting one’s identity helps prevent forced assimilation and the loss of culture. Minority rights, whether race, ethnicity, or gender, ensure that all people are given proper treatment regardless of their identity. Affirmative action ensures that minorities are included and it helps them to succeed in the workplace and educational institutions.

Minorities require these special measures because they deserve to feel a sense of belonging in a society where they are not part of the majority. After all, minority rights are human rights and are in the best interest of our entire society. When a portion of a government dictates or violates the rights of minorities, it’s the responsibility of the corporate business world to pick up the slack.

The Aftermath of This Ruling

While recent diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts have made strides in the workplace, many are worried about what the impact of affirmative action will have on applicants during the hiring process now. Concerns are growing about  future implications on the workforce as the pipeline and the programs designed to admit a wide range of individuals might face limitations moving forward.

What is even more concerning is the possibility that some companies may now begin to question their DEI strategies due to legal uncertainties arising from the recent court decision. This is despite existing legal protections against discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

How This Affirmative Action Decision Changes the Workplace

While this ruling doesn’t have a direct effect on workplace law, it could lead to problems with existing protections against decisions based on factors such as race. The ruling is likely to prompt a transformation in diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. As the legality of race-conscious considerations faces heightened legal scrutiny, employers might adopt more holistic diversity strategies that encompass a broader range of diversity factors beyond race.

It’s important to note that while the prohibition on race discrimination in education falls under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the prohibition on race discrimination in employment is governed by Title VII. Educational institutions have generally enjoyed greater latitude in considering race compared to employers.

Both mandatory and voluntary affirmative action for employers remain intact despite the Supreme Court’s decision. This reinforces the evolving landscape of DE&I efforts in the employment sphere.

Continuing DEI Initiatives in Light of Recent Changes

In light of these rulings, it becomes even more crucial to strengthen DEI programs. However, it’s essential to recognize that voluntary affirmative action programs are bound by limitations that prohibit the implementation of quotas, preferences, and set-asides.

To effectively promote diversity and inclusion, assess your organization demographics to identify underrepresentation among protected groups and then develop strategic plans to address these disparities. Equally important is creating accessible workplaces, including not just physical spaces but also digital ones. The goal is to create an inclusive work environment that resonates with a diverse spectrum of employees.

Ultimately, the pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a multifaceted journey that goes beyond compliance—it’s about nurturing a workplace culture that embraces differences and empowers everyone to thrive.

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