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Case 9-1: Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio

Group 1 Chapter 9 Case Presentation
by

Ashley Longstreth

on 4 October 2012

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Transcript of Case 9-1: Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio

Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio Group #1:
Ashley Longstreth
Gilah Salas Case Summary How difficult would it be for the plaintiffs in Wards Cove to link the stated practices to the disparate impact? Question 1: What practices did the plaintiffs in Wards Cove single out as having a disparate impact? Question 3: Compare Watson facts with Wards Cove facts. In light of Watson, was Wards Cove accurately decided? What would the plaintiffs in Wards Cove have to put in evidence to win a disparate impact case? Question 2: The employees alleged: Summary Continued District Court rejects allegations

Court of Appeals reverses decision
Wards showed burden of proof that their hiring practices were not discriminatory

The courts are now required, as part of an employees' prima facie case, to show specific elements of the employers' hiring process having a notable disparate impact on nonwhites. Decision http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_87_1387 Extension 1) Would it be considered a form of negligence if Wards Cove did not research the hiring agency's program for discriminatory practices of enrollment?

2) Should Wards Cove consider using a different hiring agency in order to save the Company's reputation?

3) Do you believe the courts decision halted the progression of the battle against racial discrimination? Questions: Wards Cove Packing Co. Seasonal fish cannery throughout Alaska
Hire two types of workers; cannery, non-skilled and non-cannery, skilled
Typically hired nonwhite workers for the cannery positions and white workers for the non-cannery positions
These workers had separate living quarters and dining areas As a result, in 1974 the employees classified as the nonwhite cannery workers filed suit in Federal District Court against the Company. Claimed Wards Cove was in violation of the Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 Wards Cove hiring/ promotion practices were responsible for the racial disparity of the workforce.
Denied them and other nonwhites of becoming non-cannery workers because of race.
Complained of racially segregated facilities District Court rejected all of the allegations and the challenge of disparate impact because it did not fit the criteria. Reasoning: Wards Cove used an employment agency to fill unskilled positions who mainly enrolled nonwhites. The plaintiffs may have a harder time linking the hiring practices of Wards Cove Packing Co. to the disparate impact, simply because the Company claims that it does not decide the race of the types of unskilled workers that apply.
The hiring agency that Wards Cove uses, claims that the majority of unskilled workers who enroll in their program are nonwhite candidates.
That being said, the plaintiffs have no legitimate proof that Wards Cove has the intent to discriminate, when there is not a variety of both white and nonwhite unskilled workers to begin with. The Watson case shed light on the fact that in order to prove disparate impact, the plaintiff is responsible for showing that the respondents exhibit practices which are deemed necessary of a disparate impact claim.

The plaintiffs in this case were then placed with the burden of providing sufficient evidence in suggesting that Wards Cove implements a hiring practice that has the clear intention of discrimination in order to win their disparate impact case. Wards Cove practice of selection for non-cannery positions was singled out as statistically having a disparate impact. Which of these could the employer justify on business necessity grounds? The court agreed that it was not the Company's fault that a majority of the non-cannery workers lacked minority individuals. It is a justifiable business necessity that the skilled workers hired for non-cannery positions, be qualified for the position of doctor, accountant, electrician etc., regardless of race. What could the employer do to make it more likely that nonwhite candidates eventually work in non-cannery positions? Wards Cove could provide training to develop the necessary skills required for non-cannery positions that do not require a degree, or develop a program that encourages unskilled workers to receive the proper training and education for positions that do require a license to practice, or degree. Follow the link above for the details on the courts conclusion for this case. The book shows two dissents, or differing opinions, on the decision of this case. The bottom section of the web page provided through this link shows more detail to the courts decision and why they came to such conclusion.
The court came to a majority vote of 5 to 4 in ruling in favor of Wards Cove.
This decision was made because people need to remember that the two positions seemed to be racially segregated, however that could be a "[reflection of] the racial differences that exist in the labor market at large."
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