A CONFLICT OF RIGHTS: The Supreme Court and Affirm by Melvin I. Urofsky

A CONFLICT OF RIGHTS: The Supreme Court and Affirm

Email this review


A thoughtful consideration of the paradoxes of affirmative action. Urofsky (History & Law/Virginia Commonwealth Univ.) is the author of Louis D. Brandeis and the Progressive Tradition (1980), etc. Urofsky centers his discussion on the US Supreme Court's 1987 landmark decision Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara County, which resulted from a challenge to an affirmative-action program in the Transportation Department of Santa Clara County, Cal. He describes how, in order to redress historical imbalances of women in its labor force, the Department devised a program that authorized the consideration of gender as a factor in evaluating qualified candidates for jobs. The Department admitted that the gender of Joyce was a consideration in its decision to hire her as a dispatcher. Johnson, a male rival for the job who had scored higher than Joyce on a qualifying examination, challenged the decision to hire Joyce on the grounds that it violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited the consideration of sex in employment decisions. Urofsky is balanced in his presentation of the grievances of both sides: while he sympathizes with Joyce's argument that women have suffered from longstanding prejudice in the workplace, he understands Johnson's perception that the decision by the Santa Clara Transportation Department to consider gender as one of the factors in employment decisions unfairly subverted the express language of Title VII. Also, Urofsky cogently reviews the legal effects of Johnson--that Joyce's ultimate victory in the Supreme Court validated affirmative action by public employers and extended it, for the first time, to women. An absorbing and fair presentation of the legal and policy dilemmas of affirmative action.

ISBN: 684-19069-9
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online: