Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court, and DEI Initiatives

Beth Dean 09.05.23
Weekly Tip Blog Header - 2023-09-05 Affirmative Action and DEI

Here’s How the Recent Ruling Affects Your Company

You may have read that in late June, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. Here’s the implication this ruling could mean for you as a small or medium-sized business owner.

To be clear, the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action does not explicitly apply to private companies. The decision was specifically about the use of race in college admissions. It did not address the use of race in employment decisions by private companies.

However, the decision could have implications for private companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plans, including:

  • Increased scrutiny of DEI programs. The decision could bring closer attention to DEI programs by employers, as well as by employees who believe that they have experienced discrimination based on their race or ethnicity. This scrutiny could make employers more hesitant to implement or maintain DEI programs that could be considered discriminatory.
  • Shift in focus away from race and ethnicity. The decision could also lead to a shift in focus away from race and ethnicity in DEI programs. Instead, employers may focus on other factors, such as socioeconomic status or educational background, when considering candidates for employment or promotion.
  • Increased emphasis on unconscious bias training. The decision could also lead to an increased focus on unconscious bias training in DEI programs. This type of training aims to help employees become aware of their own biases and how they can impact their decisions.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court’s decision does not explicitly prohibit private companies from considering race or ethnicity in their DEI programs. However, the decision may make it more difficult for employers to do so. It is likely that employers will be more cautious in implementing DEI programs in the future.

Here are some specific examples of how the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision could impact a private company’s DEI plan:

  • A company that uses a race-conscious admissions policy for its internship program may need to revise it to focus on other factors, such as socioeconomic status or educational background.
  • A company that offers unconscious bias training to its employees may need to expand the training to include race and ethnicity.
  • A company considering implementing a new DEI program may need to consult with legal counsel to ensure that the program complies with the law.

The true impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action on private companies’ DEI plans is still debatable. However, it is clear that the decision has the potential to impact the workplace significantly.

For help navigating DEI in light of the recent ruling, contact your HR Business Partner at Nextep.

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