Wards Cove Packing Company, Inc. v. Atonio/Dissent Blackmun

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Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinions

Justice BLACKMUN, with whom Justice BRENNAN and Justice MARSHALL join, dissenting.

I fully concur in Justice STEVENS' analysis of this case. Today a bare majority of the Court takes three major strides backwards in the battle against race discrimination. It reaches out to make last Term's plurality opinion in Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 108 S.Ct. 2777, 101 L.Ed.2d 827 (1988), the law, thereby upsetting the longstanding distribution of burdens of proof in Title VII disparate-impact cases. It bars the use of internal work force comparisons in the making of a prima facie case of discrimination, even where the structure of the industry in question renders any other statistical comparison meaningless. And it requires practice-by-practice statistical proof of causation, even where, as here, such proof would be impossible.

The harshness of these results is well demonstrated by the facts of this case. The salmon industry as described by this record takes us back to a kind of overt and institutionalized discrimination we have not dealt with in years: a total residential and work environment organized on principles of racial stratification and segregation, which, as Justice STEVENS points out, resembles a plantation economy. Post, at ----, n. 4. This industry long has been characterized by a taste for discrimination of the old-fashioned sort: a preference for hiring nonwhites to fill its lowest level positions, on the condition that they stay there. The majority's legal rulings essentially immunize these practices from attack under a Title VII disparate-impact analysis.

Sadly, this comes as no surprise. One wonders whether the majority still believes that race discrimination-or, more accurately, race discrimination against nonwhites-is a problem in our society, or even remembers that it ever was. Cf. Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469, 109 S.Ct. 706, 102 L.Ed.2d 854 (1989).


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).