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Griggs was an important case in the history of affirmative action. It set a high standard for employers and aroused a good deal of criticism. Prior to 1965, Duke Power had hired only whites in jobs outside its Labor department. As of 1955, initial assignment to any department except Labor required a high school degree. When the 1964 Civil Rights law went into effect, the company established a high school degree requirement for anyone transferring from Labor to another department. Later it allowed persons without the degree to transfer if they scored satisfactorily on two general aptitude tests. The requirements had a "disparate impact" on black employees.
The Court agreed that there was no evidence of an intent to discriminate against blacks. (Duke had a policy of paying two-thirds of the cost of a high school education for its employees.) Still, it held that a test or other job requirement with a disparate impact on persons protected by the Civil Rights Act must be shown to be closely related to job performance. Not only had Duke not done so, but the record suggested that the requirements had little relation to job performance. Critics charged that the costs of litigation and validating tests and other requirements would strongly encourage employers to establish racial quotas for hiring.
In the Weber case the Court ruled that a voluntary affirmative action plan at a private company did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. To be legal, however, plans had to meet certain standards: