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Taxman v. Board of Education
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
91 F.3d 1547 (1996)
Sharon Taxman (plaintiff) and Debra Williams were the only teachers in the business department at Piscataway High School. The Board of Education of the Township of Piscataway, New Jersey (board) (defendant) accepted a recommendation from its superintendent to reduce the teaching staff in the business department by one. Under state law, layoffs had to proceed in reverse order of seniority; however, Taxman and Williams had equal seniority. Historically, in decisions involving the layoff of employees with equal seniority, the board had broken the tie through a random lottery process. However, the board had previously implemented an affirmative-action policy, which provided that if candidates appeared to be of equal qualification, those who were members of racial, national origin, or gender groups identified as minorities by the New Jersey State Department of Education would be recommended. The board opted to follow the affirmative-action policy and discharged Taxman, who was White, in order to retain Williams, who was Black. The board’s affirmative-action policy was not adopted to remedy the results of prior discrimination and, thus, did not have a remedial purpose. In fact, during the relevant times, Black teachers were neither underrepresented nor underutilized in the school district’s work force. Specifically, the percentage of Black employees in the district’s job category that included teachers exceeded the percentage of Black employees in the available work force. In addition, the board president stated that he voted to apply the affirmative-action policy for the purpose of promoting diversity and tolerance. Taxman brought a claim against the board under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Taxman on the question of liability. The board appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Mansmann, J.)
Dissent (Sloviter, C.J.)
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