Several U.S. corporations that committed to diversifying their workforces three years ago are encountering opposition from conservative legal organizations. Right-leaning non-profits, America First Legal and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, have initiated legal actions against employers such as Texas A&M University, Target, and Kellogg’s, challenging their initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
The landscape of conservative legal opposition to diversity hiring practices has been ongoing, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling against affirmative action in college admissions has provided further momentum, according to Lauren Weber, a Wall Street Journal reporter. While this Supreme Court decision centered on higher education, not employment programs, experts suggest that employment initiatives could be the next battleground for these groups.
In a recent case, America First Legal filed a lawsuit against Nordstrom in June, contending that the retailer’s objective of increasing the representation of Black and Latino individuals in managerial positions by at least 50% by the end of 2025 is discriminatory due to its race-based nature.
Conservative legal groups base many of their DEI challenges on two federal laws—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The significance lies in the fact that these laws were enacted decades ago to expand employment opportunities for people of color. Now, these very laws are being employed to challenge DEI programs, raising questions about the practical implications of such initiatives, as Lauren Weber highlights.
Although an influx of lawsuits might prompt some companies to reconsider their diversity programs, many remain resolute in their commitment, prepared to face legal battles to uphold their initiatives. Despite potential setbacks, numerous companies intend to stay the course. This situation raises the core question of whether true equal opportunity exists within American corporations and workplaces.
Amid the pandemic and following the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, several major companies pledged to enhance diversity within their corporate structures. For instance, Best Buy and Starbucks aimed to have a third of their corporate positions filled by people of color by 2025. Similarly, Adidas, Facebook, Google, Wells Fargo, and Microsoft set comparable goals.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Labor challenged these hiring targets in 2020, asserting that basing hiring objectives largely on race was discriminatory.