Diversity Programs Avoid Setback in Supreme Court Decision

June 24, 2016

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on affirmative action which could have significantly affected employers' diversity efforts, but instead upheld the University of Texas' (UT) limited use of race as a factor in its admissions process.  The case dates back to 2008, when Abigail Fisher alleged the UT's admissions policies discriminated against her in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal civil rights statutes.  Had the decision gone the other way, it could have exposed employer diversity programs to challenges that they are discriminatory if they are accused of prizing diversity over merit.  However, the 4 to 3 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy upheld the use of race when making affirmative action decisions while cautioning that UT has an ongoing duty to refine its diversity policy by using data to analyze the fairness of its admissions program and evaluate whether a race-conscious policy is needed.