California Court Tosses Preference Hiring for Women, Minorities

September 10, 2001 ( ? A California appellate court has unanimously struck down five state laws that allow racial and gender preferences.

In a unanimous opinion, the California Third Appellate District found that programs administered by the state community college system and the State Personnel Board that set goals and timetables to expand employment of women and minorities violate Proposition 209 and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution, according to the Bureau of National Affairs.

Also tossed were requirements that the Board alter employment and layoff practices to maintain the racial and gender composition of its workforce to remedy past discriminatory hiring practices.

Preferential Treatment

The court also invalidated laws requiring the state lottery, state treasurer, and Department of General Services to take steps to issue contracts to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.

However, the court upheld provisions of the laws that allow the agencies to gather data on the hiring of women and minorities in state government.

The ruling in Connerly v. State Personnel Bd. partially overturned a 1998 trial court ruling in the lawsuit first filed by former Governor Pete Wilson. Ward Connerly, who led the campaign for passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, took over as plaintiff in the case after Wilson left office.

Proposition 209 prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment based on sex, race, ethnicity, color or national origin in public employment, public education or public contracting.

The case was remanded to the trial court, which must enter a judgment consistent with the appellate opinion.