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Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody

United States Supreme Court
422 U.S. 405 (1975)


Albemarle Paper Co. (Albemarle) (defendant), a paper products company, used two general ability tests in making hiring decisions for skilled “lines of progression.” One test measured nonverbal intelligence; the other measured verbal aptitude. Workers within each line of progression were able to move up as they acquired more advanced skills. Incumbents already working in a line were not required to pass the tests to retain their jobs or qualify for promotions within the same line. The tests were not calibrated to measure job relatedness; Albemarle adopted national norms in setting cut-off scores for passage. Before 1964, black employees were expressly excluded from higher-skilled, higher-paying lines of progression. Once Albemarle discontinued that practice and adopted the ability tests, black employees were permitted to transfer to the more skilled progression lines if they passed, but few did. Black employees (plaintiffs) sued Albemarle under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging the testing procedure resulted in racially based disparate impact. Before trial, Albemarle hired an expert to validate the employment tests as job related. The expert created a validation test that examined 10 job groupings representing jobs at the top of the lines of progression. There was no control for different skills required within each line. Of 105 employees in the study, only four were black. The study compared individual employee’s test scores with a subjective ranking given by the employee’s supervisors. The expert conducted statistical analysis designed to show a correlation between each employee’s test scores and the supervisors’ rankings. Albemarle claimed these correlations proved that the professional tests were sufficiently job related to be valid under Title VII, even if they produced a disparate impact. The district court agreed, but a court of appeals reversed. Albemarle sought review by the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

Concurrence (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (Blackmun, J.)

Concurrence (Marshall, J.)

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