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Labor Law: Dunlap v. Tennessee Valley Authority Report

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Updated: May 17th, 2021

What are the legal issues in this case?

The legal issues, in this case, are racial discrimination, disparate impact, and disparate treatment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines discrimination as treating an employee or a job applicant unfavorably because of his or her age, race, physical disability, nationality, religion, creed, skin color, or gender (Collins 2010). According to the civil rights Act of 1964, no employee or job applicant should be subjected to any type of discrimination (Sharma 2009). Dunlop was not given the job despite meeting all the necessary qualifications.

Disparate treatment is another legal issue in this case. This is when an employee or a job applicant is treated differently due to his or her race, creed, skin color, religion, physical disability, nationality, age, or gender (Collins 2010). The government has put in place various rules and regulations to protect the above groups from unfair treatment. A good example is the civil rights Act of 1964, which protects employees and job applicants from any type of discrimination (Sharma 2009).

Disparate impact is another legal issue in this case. This happens when employers put in place employment policies that are aimed at discriminating against employees and job applicants (Collins 2010). The employment policies may not be seen as discriminatory (Walsh 2010). The plaintiff (David Dunlop), in this case, had to prove that the employment policies that had been put in place by the employer (Tennessee Valley Authority) were discriminatory.

Explain why the plaintiff’s disparate impact claim failed?

Under the disparate impact theory, Dunlop was required to prove to the court that some of Tennessee Valley Authority employment practices were discriminatory. Dunlop had to prove that the facially neutral employment practices had a negative impact on him during the interview process, and as such, he was not able to secure the job (Walsh 2010). Dunlop had to identify the specific employment policy that had played a part in making sure he did not secure the job.

Dunlop was unable to present substantive evidence that would prove that Tennessee Valley Authority employment practices were discriminatory (Sharma 2009). He was unable to prove that he did not secure the job due to unfair employment practices. The court did not find any evidence to support Dunlop’s claims, and hence the case was dismissed (Walsh 2010).

Why did the plaintiff’s disparate treatment succeed?

The disparate treatment theory required the plaintiff to demonstrate to the court that the defendant had treated him unfavorably due to his race and skin color. In the case Dunlop v. Tennessee Valley Authority, Dunlop was required to prove that he was racially discriminated against by the selection committee of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Tennessee Valley Authority, on the other hand, had to prove that their actions were legitimate. The defendant had to give a good reason as to why the applicant had failed to get the job by providing the court with the documents that were used to conduct the interview.

The defendant provided the court with the matrix that had been used during Dunlap’s interview. According to the matrix presented by the defendant, it was clear that Dunlop had not made it into the top ten (Walsh 2010). Dunlop was then required to prove to the court that the interview process had been manipulated to favor some of the job applicants.

The first issue was that the selection committee in charge of selection had decided that the interview process would account for 75% of the applicant’s final score. Previous performance, education, and experience would account for the remaining 35% of the applicant’s final score. Therefore, the selection process mainly relied on subjective measurement rather than objective measurement to fill in the job openings. The court was also able to establish that Tennessee Valley Authority employment policy stated that potential employees should be selected based on merit and experience. Previous work performance, experience, education, training, and ability to perform the job would form the basis of appraisal (Walsh 2010).

The other issue was that the scores from the interview had discrepancies. Dunlop had a perfect safety record and was given a score of 4, while a white job applicant was given a score of 6 despite having had two work-related accidents. Dunlop had a perfect attendance record taking only a few days off to attend to family issues and received a score of 3.7, while other applicants who gave the same answer were given a score of 4.2 and 5.5, respectively (Walsh 2010).

The court also found out that the score sheets had been manipulated during the score balancing process. Tennessee Valley Authority failed to give any reason to support these revisions. The court further found evidence from an email that had been sent by the director in charge of the human resource department, which had been addressed to the selection committee. According to the email, the selection committee was ordered by the director to make sure they embraced diversity.

The selection team did this by making sure that they only picked one black applicant to get the job. The applicants were also to be placed into various groups according to their levels of competence before the interview began. This was, however, not the case as they were placed into these groups after the interview to make sure that the number of outstanding applicants equaled the number of job openings (Walsh 2010). Due to the above irregularities, the court was unable to use the hiring matrix to determine if the selection process had been free and fair.

The court further listened to testimonies from members of the selection committee and the director in charge of the human resource department. The court found out there had been racial discrimination in filling in the job openings. The court found out the selection process was used as a mask to hire the preferred candidates and ensure diversity by employing one black applicant (Walsh 2010).

What should have been done differently to make sure that the interview process was free and fair?

The selection committee should have relied on the objective measurement rather than the subjective measurement in filling the job openings in accordance with the company’s employment policy. The selection committee should have also been fair in awarding scores to the job applicants. The selection committee should have also been given powers to conduct the interview without any interference from the company’s management. The selection committee should have taken into account the qualifications of the job applicants to help them make a decision on which candidates would have been best suited to fill in the job openings at Tennessee Valley Authority.

References

Collins, H. (2010). Employment law (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sharma, S. K. (2009). Human resource management: a strategic approach to employment. New Delhi: Global India Pub.

Walsh, D. J. (2010). Employment law for human resource practice (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: South- Western Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Labor Law: Dunlap v. Tennessee Valley Authority." May 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/labor-law-dunlap-v-tennessee-valley-authority/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Labor Law: Dunlap v. Tennessee Valley Authority'. 17 May.

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