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Apple Turnover

Once again we learn that, in Silicon Valley as elsewhere in Corporate America, there is no place for politically incorrect truth-telling. What’s more, what the law says is not even part of the conversation.

The latest kerfuffle involves Apple’s vice president of “inclusion and diversity,” who made the following statement during a panel discussion: “There can be twelve white blue-eyed blond men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Well, talk about your mansplaining, and isn’t that just what you’d expect to hear from some corporate white guy?

Except that this particular executive happens to be a black woman, and of course she’s exactly right. Those twelve individuals may have wildly dissimilar life stories and outlooks, and for that matter you could also choose twelve people of wildly dissimilar ethnicities but nearly identical upbringing and mindset.

If Apple thinks having a diversity of life experiences and background is important in assembling a good team, fine, but why use skin color, national origin, and sex as a proxy for how people grew up and what they believe? That’s stereotyping, and by the way Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment. (I discussed all this a decade ago in testimony before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — see especially parts III and V.)

No matter. The outcry was immediate and loud, and an apology has been issued.

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MLB: No White Men Need Apply -- Major League Baseball recently announced a “Diversity Fellowship Program” that is explicitly limited to “person[s] of color” and women.
What can I say? This is of course worse than the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which is also illegal, but which at least does not bar people on the basis of race from applying for and obtaining a position. This does.

There is no legal justification for this; Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in private employment. Bizarrely, MLB’s announcement includes at the end this boilerplate: “Individuals seeking employment at MLB . . . are considered without regards to race, color, . . . national origin, . . . sex . . . ”

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Local Control over Schools at Stake – The Southeastern Legal Foundation and Center for Equal Opportunity have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit,  supporting a group of Gardendale City, Alabama, residents who want to form a new municipal school system but are burdened by a 40-year old desegregation decree, and a federal court who insists on controling the local schools.

This case, Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education, originated over 50 years ago when Linda Stout sued the Jefferson County school board for racially segregating the school system. Such de jure segregation is of course unconstitutional, and accordingly the court entered an order directing the school system to desegregate. By 1976, the County’s dual system was fully dismantled. 

Fast forward to 2012. Residents of Gardendale City, within the County, began a campaign to raise property taxes to form their own school system, hoping to increase local control over education, improve test scores, and decrease overall size of the system their children attended. They succeeded in raising sufficient funds and in 2014, formed the Gardendale City Board of Education.  But because the federal district court still controls the local school board, the new school board had to seek its permission to operate. The court ultimately allowed the two elementary schools, but not the middle and high schools. Both sides appealed.

SLF and CEO filed their amicus brief to bring one particular issue to the Court’s attention — the inherent violation of federalism that results from continued federal court control over local school boards. The U.S. Supreme Court has, time and time again, indicated that the time for federal court control over an area which is constitutionally reserved to the States has come. Unless there is a constitutional violation that needs to be remedied, federal courts should return control of our children’s education to the local and state governments.

Click here for SLF's and CEO’s 11th Circuit amicus brief.