Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty.

RESPONDENT:Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty.
LOCATION:The Transportation Agency

DOCKET NO.: 85-1129
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 480 US 616 (1987)
ARGUED: Nov 12, 1986
DECIDED: Mar 24, 1987

Constance E. Brooks – on behalf of Petitioner
Steven Woodside – on behalf of Respondents

Facts of the case

The Transportation Agency, Santa Clara, California promoted Diane Joyce to road dispatcher over Paul Johnson. Both candidates were qualified for the job. As an affirmative action employer, the Agency took into account the sex of the applicants in making the promotion decision.


Did the Agency impermissibly take into account the sex of the applicants in the promotion process and violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Media for Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 12, 1986 in Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 24, 1987 in Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No 85-1129, Johnson versus Transportation Agency will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The question for decision is the validity of an affirmative action plan adopted by an agency of Santa Clara County, California, respondents, Santa Clara County transportation agency.

The plan provides, among many other things, in making promotions to positions within a traditionally segregated job classification, in which women have been significantly under represented, the agency has authorized to consider as one factor the sex of a qualified applicant.

The plan is intended to achieve or statistically measurable year to work improvement in hiring and promoting minorities and women.

Job classification were they are under represented.

The long term goal is to attain a work force whose accomplization reflects the proportion of the minorities and women in the area labor force.

The plan sets aside no specific number of positions for minorities or women, but requires that short-range goals be established and annually adjusted to serve as the most realistic guide for actual employment decisions.

When the agency announced the vacancy for the promotional position of road dispatcher, none of the 238 positions in the pertinent Skilled Craft Worker job classification which included the dispatcher position was held by a woman.

The qualified applicants for the positions were interviewed and the agency, pursuant to the plan, ultimately passed over petitioner a male employee and promoted a female, Diane Joyce, both of the whom were rated as well qualified for the job.

After receiving a right to sue letter from the Euqal Employment Opportunity Commission, petitioner files suit in Federal District Court, which held that the agency plan violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Court found that Joyce’s sex was a determining factor in her selection and that the agency’s plan was invalid under the criterion announced in our decision in Steelworkers versus Weber that the plan be temporary.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court, and we intern agreeing with the Court of Appeals affirm its judgment.

We hold that the agent appropriately took into our account Joyce’s sex as one factor in determining that she should be promoted.

The agency’s plan represents a moderate, flexible, case-by-case approach effecting a gradual improvement in the representation of minorities and women in the agency’s work force, and is therefore fully consistent with Title VII.

Assessment of the legality of the agency’s plan must be guided by the decisions in Steelworkers versus Weber.

An employer seeking to justify the adoption of an affirmative action plan need not point to its own prior discriminatory practices but need point only to our conspicuous imbalance in traditionally segregated job categories.

Voluntary employer action can play a crucial role in furthering Title VII’s purpose of eliminating the effects of discrimination in the workplace and Title VII should not be read to thwart such efforts.

The employment decision here was made pursuant to a plan prompted by concerns similar to those of the employer in Webber, consideration of the sex of applicants for Skilled Craft jobs was justified by the existence of a manifest imbalance that reflected under representation of women, in traditionally segregated job categories.

Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion; Justice O’Connor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice White filed a dissenting opinion; Justice Scalia also filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice has joined and parts 1 and 2 of which Justice White has joined.