Legal Operations » How Will the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling Affect Corporate DEI Policies?

How Will the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling Affect Corporate DEI Policies?

How Will the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling Affect Corporate DEI Policies?

July 17, 2023

The Supreme Court’s decision on June 29, 2023, to strike down affirmative action at colleges and universities sent shock waves throughout higher education, but the effects of the 6-3 ruling promise to go much wider. Many businesses have adopted policies to diversify hiring, and the Supreme Court’s ruling to end the policy in universities endangers those efforts. Corporate America has embraced diversity, equity and inclusion policies, particularly in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s killing in 2020. Over 60 big companies, including G.M. and Meta, have warned the Supreme Court that ending affirmative action in higher education would make it harder to build diverse workforces. 

Corporate diversity efforts aren’t exactly analogous to university ones, say some experts. The equal protection clause doesn’t apply to private employers, said Doug Brayley, a labor law specialist at Ropes & Gray. And others contend that companies are allowed to actively ensure the widest pool of job candidates to hire the best applicants. Corporate executives had been weighing their next moves ahead of the ruling. Some employers plan to stay the course. Says Lori Castillo Martinez, Salesforce’s chief equality officer, “Salesforce’s commitment to equality doesn’t waiver.” However, advocates fear that others may simply abandon such efforts in the face of new legal challenges.

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