The Transportation Agency of Santa Clara County, California (the agency) (defendant), adopted an affirmative-action plan to address historic patterns of discrimination against women and minorities. The plan allowed the agency to consider gender when making promotions to positions within any traditionally segregated job classification in which women had been significantly underrepresented. The agency promoted Diane Joyce to the position of a road dispatcher, which was classified as a road-maintenance worker, in accordance with the plan. Joyce was selected over Paul Johnson (plaintiff), who had a slightly higher score based on his qualifications and interview. The classification of road-maintenance worker had a significant underrepresentation of female workers. Only one out of 110 workers in the classification was female. Johnson sued, alleging that the agency had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, by promoting a less qualified employee based on gender. The trial court found in favor of Johnson. The agency appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which reversed. Johnson petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.