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Affirmative Action Ban Debated in California Supreme Court--Should Women and Minorities have Employment Preferences?

May 5, 2010

Our Southern California Employment Attorneys have been following the recent California Supreme Court discussion on Proposition 209, questioning the topic of affirmative action in California employment contracts.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Supreme Court recently debated the constitutionality of Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, which was the California ballot proposal approved in 1996 that amended the California Constitution to prohibit state, local governments, public universities, colleges, schools, districts, or any other governmental institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any individual or group in public employment, education or public contracting on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, or national original.

During the hearing, the high court questioned the reach of Proposition 209, and whether the affirmative action ban in government should be limited. Certain court members were reportedly interested in permitting some form of affirmative action in addressing the continuing problem of discrimination in the California workplace.

The high court is currently reviewing an ordinance in San Francisco that gives companies operated by minorities and women an employment advantage with city contracting. Even though Prop 209's constitutionality was upheld by the nation's 9th Circuit Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court is not restricted by the ruling of the circuit court.

The City of San Francisco is being represented by Sherri Sokeland Kaiser, who claims that this ordinance is needed to give women and minorities a level playing field in a city plagued with ongoing discrimination in the workplace. Kaiser contends that the restriction of employment preferences for minorities and women violates the United States Constitution.

Sharon L. Browne, the attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, the conservative public interest law group, claimed that this ordinance supports preferences on race and gender that Prop 209 was supposed to eliminate. Browne suggested that there was no significant discrimination evident to support this San Francisco law.

The court is scheduled to rule within ninety days.

California Supreme Court Debates Ban on Affirmative Action in Contracts, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Proposition 209: Prohibition Against Discrimination or Preferential Treatment by State and Other Public Entities, Initiative Constitutional Amendment, California Attorney General, 1996

Supreme Court of California