Taft law firm hires for blatantly illegal summer fellowship

According to the Taft law firm website: “Each year, Taft awards up to seven scholarships to highly motivated first-year law students who are members of historically underrepresented ethnic and/or racial minority groups. “

My understanding of labor law is that it is doubtful that race will ever be a legal factor in hiring, beyond a context of redress for past discrimination by a particular company, as in the Weber case. But it is somewhat controversial.

What I understand is not really controversial (although sophists will be sophists) is that you can’t have a 100% quota based on race. Taft’s lucrative summer scholarship program, which offers a lucrative salary in the range of 30-40,000 for ten weeks of work, has such a quota, as it is only open to members of “ethnic groups and/or historically underrepresented racial minorities”.

I blogged about similar programs many years ago, and when I looked at them a year or two later, almost all of them had changed from “open to minorities only” to “open to students with a proven track record in favor. promoting diversity” or something like that. In practice, employment practices may not have changed, but these companies have at least decided to to pretend not to adopt illegal quotas of 100%.

Leaving aside if one of the things that law firms should to be allowed to have a program like this, law firms are generally expected to insist on following the law, for fairly obvious reasons. Is there really no one at Taft who has noticed the existence of this program and pointed out its illegality?

By the way, one reason I expect SCOTUS to bite the bullet and issue a strong opinion prohibiting the use of race in higher education is that SCOTUS for 45 years has been telling the government (in the contractual area) , employers and universities that they can use race, but only in a very limited and targeted way. The reaction from government, employers and universities has been to say, “we can do whatever we want, as long as we don’t explicitly use quotas”, and sometimes they don’t even stop there, as shown Taft’s example.

Today’s SCOTUS majority might have been willing to cut, say, Harvard a little slack if Harvard had really tried to use racially neutral means to achieve “diversity” and then only used the breed only in a limited way. Instead, Harvard’s modus operandi has been to have soft quotas with (im)plausible deniability. I don’t think the Court is ready to play this game any longer.

Denise W. Whigham