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Reverse chronological e-mail alerts prepared pro bono for the California Lawyers Association (formerly State Bar of California) Labor & Employment Law Section, unofficially since 2003 and officially since 2007, covering California, 9th Circuit and US Supreme Court decisions, and new laws signed by Governor. To subscribe, contact LaborLaw@CLA.Legal.

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Grace v. The Walt Disney Company (CA4/3 G061004 7/13/23) Anaheim Living Wage Ordinance


In 2018, Anaheim voters approved a Living Wage Ordinance (LWO).  (Anaheim Mun. Code, § 6.99 et seq.) The LWO applies to hospitality employers in the Anaheim or Disneyland Resort areas that benefit from a “City Subsidy.”  (§ 6.99.060.)


In 2019, Kathleen Grace and other plaintiffs (“the Employees”) filed a class action complaint against the Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (“Disney”) and Sodexo, Inc., and Sodexomagic, LLC (“Sodexo”) alleging a violation of the LWO.  Sodexo operates restaurants in Disney’s theme parks.  Disney filed a motion for summary judgment and Sodexo joined (its liability is derivative).


It is undisputed the Employees were not being paid the required minimum hourly wage under the LWO.  However, Disney argued it was not covered under the LWO as a matter of law because it is not benefitting from a “City Subsidy.”  (See § 6.99.060.)  The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment.  We disagree.


“A ‘City Subsidy’ is any agreement with the city pursuant to which a person other than the city has a right to receive a rebate of transient occupancy tax, sales tax, entertainment tax, property tax or other taxes, presently or in the future, matured or unmatured.”  (§ 6.99.030, italics added.)


Generally, a “rebate” means “a return of a part of a payment.”  (Webster’s 11th New Collegiate Dict. (2003) p. 1037.)  A transient occupancy tax is paid by a transient (a hotel guest) and collected by an operator (the hotel).  (See § 2.12.120.)  A sales tax is paid by a consumer and collected by the retailer.  (See § 2.04.040.)  And a property tax is paid by a property owner and collected by the county government.  (See § 2.08.)  The City of Anaheim (“the City”) imposes no entertainment tax.


In 1996, Disney and the City signed an Infrastructure and Parking Finance Agreement (the “Finance Agreement”).  The City agreed to issue about $400 million in municipal bonds.  The money was to be used to revitalize the Anaheim and Disneyland resort districts, to pay for infrastructure improvements, and to expand the Anaheim Convention Center.  The bondholders were to be repaid based on anticipated incremental increases in the City’s transient occupancy taxes (paid by hotel guests), sales taxes (paid by consumers), and property taxes (paid by Disney).


The parties also signed a Disney Credit Enhancement Agreement (the “Enhancement Agreement”) and a Reimbursement Agreement.  Under the Enhancement Agreement, Disney agreed that if there was any year in which the City’s incremental tax revenues failed to meet its bond obligations, Disney would make up the shortfall.  And under the Reimbursement Agreement, the parties agreed Disney would be reimbursed for its shortfall payments in those years when the City’s incremental tax revenues rebounded and were sufficient to meet its bond obligations.


We find the Reimbursement Agreement gives Disney the right to receive a rebate—or a return—of transient occupancy taxes (paid by hotel guests), sales taxes (paid by consumers), and property taxes (paid by Disney), in any rebound years when the City’s tax revenues are sufficient to meet its bond obligations.  Consequently, Disney receives a “City Subsidy” within the meaning of the LWO and it is therefore obligated to pay its employees the designated minimum wages.  Thus, we reverse the trial court’s order granting Disney and Sodexo’s motion for summary judgment.

Thai v. International Business Machines Corp. (CA1/5 A165390 7/11/23) COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order | Employee Expenses


On March 19, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order requiring residents to stay at home except as needed to maintain operations in critical sectors.  (Governor’s Exec. Order No. N-33-20 (Mar. 19, 2020)) (E.O. N-33-20).  At that time, lead plaintiff Paul Thai was employed by defendant and respondent International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), which directed its employees to continue working at home.


Plaintiffs seek penalties against IBM under California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA; Labor Code § 2699 et seq.) for alleged violations of section 2802, subdivision (a) (section 2802(a)), which requires an employer to reimburse an employee “for all necessary expenditures . . . incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.”  Plaintiffs contend IBM failed to reimburse Mr. Thai and other employees for the expenses necessarily incurred to perform their work duties from home.  The trial court sustained IBM’s demurrer, concluding the Governor’s order was an intervening cause of the work-from-home expenses that absolved IBM of liability under section 2802.  Because the court’s conclusion is inconsistent with the statutory language, we reverse.

Bills Signed by Governor (7/10/23)


  • AB 120 by the Committee on Budget – Human services: Registered Home Care Aid

  • AB 127 by the Committee on Budget – State government: Commission on the State of Hate

  • AB 129 by the Committee on Budget – Housing: Employee Housing

  • AB 130 by the Committee on Budget – Public Employment

  • SB 132 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Income taxes: tax credits: motion pictures: occupational safety: California Film Commission.

  • SB 150 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) – Construction: workforce development: public contracts.

Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc. (SC S274191 7/6/23) COVID-19 | Duty of Care to Employee’s Household Members 


Here we answer two questions of California law certified from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concerning the scope of an employer’s liability when an employee’s spouse is injured by transmission of the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19.  The questions are:  (1) If an employee contracts COVID-19 at the workplace and brings the virus home to a spouse, does the California Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA; Lab. Code, § 3200 et seq.) bar the spouse’s negligence claim against the employer?  (2) Does an employer owe a duty of care under California law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees’ household members?


The answer to the first question is no.  Exclusivity provisions of the WCA do not bar a nonemployee’s recovery for injuries that are not legally dependent upon an injury suffered by the employee.  The answer to the second question, however, is also no.  Although it is foreseeable that an employer’s negligence in permitting workplace spread of COVID-19 will cause members of employees’ households to contract the disease, recognizing a duty of care to nonemployees in this context would impose an intolerable burden on employers and society in contravention of public policy.  These and other policy considerations lead us to conclude that employers do not owe a tort-based duty to nonemployees to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Castellanos v. State of California (SC S279622/A163655M, review granted 6/30/23) Prop. 22 | Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act


Petition for review after affirmance in part and reversal in part the judgment in an action for writ of mandate. Is Proposition 22 (the "Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act") invalid because it conflicts with article XIV, section 4 of the California Constitution? Votes: Guerrero, C.J., Corrigan, Liu, Kruger, Groban, Jenkins and Evans, JJ. Review granted/brief due.



Court of Appeal Decision

Hacker v. Fabe (CA2/8 B309997, filed 6/12/23, pub. 6/30/23) Wage & Hour | Amendment to Judgment Adding Alter Ego


The trial court granted a motion by the Labor Commissioner to amend a judgment to add Ron Hacker as an alter ego judgment debtor. Mr. Hacker appeals. He contends there was “virtually no evidence” he commingled his assets or operations with those of the judgment debtor; the original judgment was not renewed during the 10-year limitation period; the doctrine of laches bars the alter ego motion; and the denial of an earlier alter ego motion barred the current motion under res judicata principles. We find Mr. Hacker’s arguments lack merit and affirm the trial court’s order and judgment. 


Brown v. City of Inglewood (CA2/1 B320658, filed 5/31/23, partial pub. 6/30/23) Lab. Code § 1102.5 Retaliation | Anti-SLAPP


Respondent Wanda Brown has served as the elected treasurer for appellant, the City of Inglewood (the City), since 1987.  Brown sued the City and several members of the Inglewood City Council (the council), alleging that after she reported concerns about financial improprieties, the City and the individual defendants defamed and retaliated against her.  She alleged causes of action for (1) defamation; (2) violation of Labor Code section 1102.5, subdivisions (b) and (c), which prohibit retaliation against an employee based on the employee reporting or refusing to participate in what the employee reasonably believes to be illegal activity by the employer (the section 1102.5 retaliation claim); and (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), based both on the alleged retaliation and the alleged defamation.  The City and the individual defendants filed a joint special motion to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP, under the anti-SLAPP statute (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16).  The court granted the motion in part, but denied it as to the section 1102.5 retaliation claim and the retaliation-based IIED claim against all defendants.  Defendants appeal, arguing the court incorrectly denied the anti-SLAPP motion as to the retaliation-based claims against the individual defendants.  For reasons we discuss below, we hold that the retaliation-based claims against the individual defendants arise from protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute, and that the court should have stricken these claims.  In all other respects, we affirm the court’s ruling on the anti‑SLAPP motion.

303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (US 21-476 6/30/23) First Amendment | Website Public Accommodations 


Lorie Smith wants to expand her graphic design business, 303 Creative LLC, to include services for couples seeking wedding websites. But Ms. Smith worries that Colorado will use the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act to compel her—in violation of the First Amendment—to create websites celebrating marriages she does not endorse. To clarify her rights, Ms. Smith filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the State from forcing her to create websites celebrating marriages that defy her belief that marriage should be reserved to unions between one man and one woman.


CADA prohibits all “public accommodations” from denying “the full and equal enjoyment” of its goods and services to any customer based on his race, creed, disability, sexual orientation, or other statutorily enumerated trait. Colo. Rev. Stat. §24–34–601(2)(a). The law defines “public accommodation” broadly to include almost every public-facing business in the State. §24–34–601(1). Either state officials or private citizens may bring actions to enforce the law. §§24–34–306, 24–34– 602(1). And a variety of penalties can follow any violation.


Before the district court, Ms. Smith and the State stipulated to a number of facts: Ms. Smith is “willing to work with all people regardless of classifications such as race, creed, sexual orientation, and gender” and “will gladly create custom graphics and websites” for clients of any sexual orientation; she will not produce content that “contradicts biblical truth” regardless of who orders it; Ms. Smith’s belief that marriage is a union between one man and one woman is a sincerely held conviction; Ms. Smith provides design services that are “expressive” and her “original, customized” creations “contribut[e] to the overall message” her business conveys “through the websites” it creates; the wedding websites she plans to create “will be expressive in nature,” will be “customized and tailored” through close collaboration with individual couples, and will “express Ms. Smith’s and 303 Creative’s message celebrating and promoting” her view of marriage; viewers of Ms. Smith’s websites “will know that the websites are her original artwork;” and “[t]here are numerous companies in the State of Colorado and across the nation that offer custom website design services.” Ultimately, the district court held that Ms. Smith was not entitled to the injunction she sought, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.


Held: The First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees. Pp. 6–26.


(a) The framers designed the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to protect the “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think.” Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U. S. 640, 660–661 (internal quotation marks omitted). The freedom to speak is among our inalienable rights. The freedom of thought and speech is “indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.” Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357, 375 (Brandeis, J., concurring). For these reasons, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation,” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 642, it is the principle that the government may not interfere with “an uninhibited marketplace of ideas,” McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S. 464, 476 (internal quotation marks omitted).


This Court has previously faced cases where governments have sought to test these foundational principles. In Barnette, the Court held that the State of West Virginia’s efforts to compel schoolchildren to salute the Nation’s flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance “invad[ed] the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment . . . to reserve from all official control.” 319 U. S., at 642. State authorities had “transcend[ed] constitutional limitations on their powers.” 319 U. S., at 642. In Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, the Court held that Massachusetts’s public accommodations statute could not be used to force veterans organizing a parade in Boston to include a group of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals because the parade was protected speech, and requiring the veterans to include voices they wished to exclude would impermissibly require them to “alter the expressive content of their parade.” Id., at 572–573. And in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, when the Boy Scouts sought to exclude assistant scoutmaster James Dale from membership after learning he was gay, the Court held the Boy Scouts to be “an expressive association” entitled to First Amendment protection. 530 U. S., at 656. The Court found that forcing the Scouts to include Mr. Dale would undoubtedly “interfere with [its] choice not to propound a point of view contrary to its beliefs.” Id., at 654.


These cases illustrate that the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well intentioned or deeply “misguided,” Hurley, 515 U. S., at 574, and likely to cause “anguish” or “incalculable grief,” Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U. S. 443, 456. Generally, too, the government may not compel a person to speak its own preferred messages. See Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U. S. 503, 505. Pp. 6–9.


(b) Applying these principles to the parties’ stipulated facts, the Court agrees with the Tenth Circuit that the wedding websites Ms. Smith seeks to create qualify as pure speech protected by the First Amendment under this Court’s precedents. Ms. Smith’s websites will express and communicate ideas—namely, those that “celebrate and promote the couple’s wedding and unique love story” and those that “celebrat[e] and promot[e]” what Ms. Smith understands to be a marriage. Speech conveyed over the internet, like all other manner of speech, qualifies for the First Amendment’s protections. And the Court agrees with the Tenth Circuit that the wedding websites Ms. Smith seeks to create involve her speech, a conclusion supported by the parties’ stipulations, including that Ms. Smith intends to produce a final story for each couple using her own words and original artwork. While Ms. Smith’s speech may combine with the couple’s in a final product, an individual “does not forfeit constitutional protection simply by combining multifarious voices” in a single communication. Hurley, 515 U. S., at 569.


Ms. Smith seeks to engage in protected First Amendment speech; Colorado seeks to compel speech she does not wish to provide. As the Tenth Circuit observed, if Ms. Smith offers wedding websites celebrating marriages she endorses, the State intends to compel her to create custom websites celebrating other marriages she does not. 6 F. 4th 1160, 1178. Colorado seeks to compel this speech in order to “excis[e] certain ideas or viewpoints from the public dialogue.” Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 633, 642. Indeed, the Tenth Circuit recognized that the coercive “[e]liminati[on]” of dissenting ideas about marriage constitutes Colorado’s “very purpose” in seeking to apply its law to Ms. Smith. 6 F. 4th, at 1178. But while the Tenth Circuit thought that Colorado could compel speech from Ms. Smith consistent with the Constitution, this Court’s First Amendment precedents teach otherwise. In Hurley, Dale, and Barnette, the Court found that governments impermissibly compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment when they tried to force speakers to accept a message with which they disagreed. Here, Colorado seeks to put Ms. Smith to a similar choice. If she wishes to speak, she must either speak as the State demands or face sanctions for expressing her own beliefs, sanctions that may include compulsory participation in “remedial . . . training,” filing periodic compliance reports, and paying monetary fines. That is an impermissible abridgement of the First Amendment’s right to speak freely. Hurley, 515 U. S., at 574.


Under Colorado’s logic, the government may compel anyone who speaks for pay on a given topic to accept all commissions on that same topic—no matter the message—if the topic somehow implicates a customer’s statutorily protected trait. 6 F. 4th, at 1199 (Tymkovich, C. J., dissenting). Taken seriously, that principle would allow the government to force all manner of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services involve speech to speak what they do not believe on pain of penalty. The Court’s precedents recognize the First Amendment tolerates none of that. To be sure, public accommodations laws play a vital role in realizing the civil rights of all Americans, and governments in this country have a “compelling interest” in eliminating discrimination in places of public accommodation. Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U. S. 609, 628. This Court has recognized that public accommodations laws “vindicate the deprivation of personal dignity that surely accompanies denials of equal access to public establishments.” Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U. S. 241, 250 (internal quotation marks omitted). Over time, governments in this country have expanded public accommodations laws in notable ways. Statutes like Colorado’s grow from nondiscrimination rules the common law sometimes imposed on common carriers and places of traditional public accommodation like hotels and restaurants. Dale, 530 U. S., at 656–657. Often, these enterprises exercised something like monopoly power or hosted or transported others or their belongings. See, e.g., Liverpool & Great Western Steam Co. v. Phenix Ins. Co., 129 U. S. 397, 437. Importantly, States have also expanded their laws to prohibit more forms of discrimination. Today, for example, approximately half the States have laws like Colorado’s that expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court has recognized this is “unexceptional.” Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n, 584 U. S. ___, ___. States may “protect gay persons, just as [they] can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public. And there are no doubt innumerable goods and services that no one could argue implicate the First Amendment.” Ibid. At the same time, this Court has also long recognized that no public accommodations law is immune from the demands of the Constitution. In particular, this Court has held, public accommodations statutes can sweep too broadly when deployed to compel speech. See, e.g., Hurley, 515 U. S., at 571, 578; Dale, 530 U. S., at 659. As in those cases, when Colorado’s public accommodations law and the Constitution collide, there can be no question which must prevail. U. S. Const. Art. VI, §2.


As the Tenth Circuit saw it, Colorado has a compelling interest in ensuring “equal access to publicly available goods and services,” and no option short of coercing speech from Ms. Smith can satisfy that interest because she plans to offer “unique services” that are, “by definition, unavailable elsewhere.” 6 F. 4th, at 1179–1180 (internal quotation marks omitted). In some sense, of course, her voice is unique; so is everyone’s. But that hardly means a State may coopt an individual’s voice for its own purposes. The speaker in Hurley had an “enviable” outlet for speech, and the Boy Scouts in Dale offered an arguably unique experience, but in both cases this Court held that the State could not use its public accommodations statute to deny a speaker the right “to choose the content of his own message.” Hurley, 515 U. S., at 573; see Dale, 530 U. S., at 650–656. A rule otherwise would conscript any unique voice to disseminate the government’s preferred messages in violation of the First Amendment. Pp. 9–15.


(c) Colorado now seems to acknowledge that the First Amendment does prohibit it from coercing Ms. Smith to create websites expressing any message with which she disagrees. Alternatively, Colorado contends, Ms. Smith must simply provide the same commercial product to all, which she can do by repurposing websites celebrating marriages she does endorse for marriages she does not. Colorado’s theory rests on a belief that this case does not implicate pure speech, but rather the sale of an ordinary commercial product, and that any burden on Ms. Smith’s speech is purely “incidental.” On the State’s telling, then, speech more or less vanishes from the picture—and, with it, any need for First Amendment scrutiny. Colorado’s alternative theory, however, does not sit easily with its stipulation that Ms. Smith does not seek to sell an ordinary commercial good but intends to create “customized and tailored” expressive speech for each couple “to celebrate and promote the couple’s wedding and unique love story.” Colorado seeks to compel just the sort of speech that it tacitly concedes lies beyond its reach.


The State stresses that Ms. Smith offers her speech for pay and does so through 303 Creative LLC, a company in which she is “the sole member-owner.” But many of the world’s great works of literature and art were created with an expectation of compensation. And speakers do not shed their First Amendment protections by employing the corporate form to disseminate their speech. Colorado urges the Court to look at the reason Ms. Smith refuses to offer the speech it seeks to compel, and it claims that the reason is that she objects to the “protected characteristics” of certain customers. But the parties’ stipulations state, to the contrary, that Ms. Smith will gladly conduct business with those having protected characteristics so long as the custom graphics and websites she is asked to create do not violate her beliefs. Ms. Smith stresses that she does not create expressions that defy any of her beliefs for any customer, whether that involves encouraging violence, demeaning another person, or promoting views inconsistent with her religious commitments.


The First Amendment’s protections belong to all, not just to speakers whose motives the government finds worthy. In this case, Colorado seeks to force an individual to speak in ways that align with its views but defy her conscience about a matter of major significance. In the past, other States in Barnette, Hurley, and Dale have similarly tested the First Amendment’s boundaries by seeking to compel speech they thought vital at the time. But abiding the Constitution’s commitment to the freedom of speech means all will encounter ideas that are “misguided, or even hurtful.” Hurley, 515 U. S., at 574. Consistent with the First Amendment, the Nation’s answer is tolerance, not coercion. The First Amendment envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands. Colorado cannot deny that promise consistent with the First Amendment. Pp. 15–19, 24–25.


6 F. 4th 1160, reversed.


GORSUCH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN and JACKSON, JJ., joined.

O'Brien v. The Regents of the U. of Cal. (CA1/3 A164481 6/29/23) Faculty Discipline | Unwanted Sexualized Conduct


In March 2020, James O’Brien was suspended from his employment as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, for violating the University’s Faculty Code of Conduct while attending an overseas conference in 2012.  O’Brien received a written censure and one-year suspension for directing unwanted sexualized conduct at a junior colleague attending the conference, a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  O’Brien filed a petition for writ of mandate to compel the Regents of the University of California (the Regents) to set aside the disciplinary decision, raising procedural, substantive and due process objections.  The trial court denied O’Brien’s petition.  We affirm.


We conclude that the University’s rule requiring it to initiate disciplinary action within three years of receiving a report of misconduct does not bar the discipline here.  An earlier complaint by a different student only briefly touching on an alleged incident between O’Brien and an unidentified female MIT graduate student was not a report of the wrong-doing for which he was disciplined.  On the merits, substantial evidence supports a finding by the University and the trial court that the MIT student was a “colleague” of O’Brien’s, as the Faculty Code of Conduct uses that term, and O’Brien’s other attacks on the fairness of the proceedings and his punishment also fail.

Groff v. DeJoy (US 22-174 per curium 6/29/23) Title VII | Religious Accommodation


Petitioner Gerald Groff is an Evangelical Christian who believes for religious reasons that Sunday should be devoted to worship and rest. In 2012, Groff took a mail delivery job with the United States Postal Service. Groff’s position generally did not involve Sunday work, but that changed after USPS agreed to begin facilitating Sunday deliveries for Amazon. To avoid the requirement to work Sundays on a rotating basis, Groff transferred to a rural USPS station that did not make Sunday deliveries. After Amazon deliveries began at that station as well, Groff remained unwilling to work Sundays, and USPS redistributed Groff’s Sunday deliveries to other USPS staff. Groff received “progressive discipline” for failing to work on Sundays, and he eventually resigned.


Groff sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, asserting that USPS could have accommodated his Sunday Sabbath practice “without undue hardship on the conduct of [USPS’s] business.” 42 U. S. C. §2000e(j). The District Court granted summary judgment to USPS. The Third Circuit affirmed based on this Court’s decision in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U. S. 63, which it construed to mean “that requiring an employer ‘to bear more than a de minimis cost’ to provide a religious accommodation is an undue hardship.” 35 F. 4th 162, 174, n. 18 (quoting 432 U. S., at 84). The Third Circuit found the de minimis cost standard met here, concluding that exempting Groff from Sunday work had “imposed on his coworkers, disrupted the workplace and workflow, and diminished employee morale.” 35 F. 4th, at 175.


Held: Title VII requires an employer that denies a religious accommodation to show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business. Pp. 4–21.


(a) This case presents the Court’s first opportunity in nearly 50 years to explain the contours of Hardison. The background of that decision helps to explain the Court’s disposition of this case. Pp. 4–15.


(1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it unlawful for covered employers “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges [of] employment, because of such individual’s . . . religion.” §2000e–2(a)(1). As originally enacted, Title VII did not spell out what it meant by discrimination “because of . . . religion.” Subsequent regulations issued by the EEOC obligated employers “to make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of employees” whenever doing so would not create “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” 29 CFR §1605.1 (1968). In 1970, however, the Sixth Circuit held that Title VII did not require an employer “to accede to or accommodate” a Sabbath religious practice because to do so “would raise grave” Establishment Clause questions. Dewey v. Reynolds Metals Co., 429 F. 2d 324, 334. This Court affirmed Dewey by an evenly divided vote. See 402 U. S. 689. Congress responded by amending Title VII in 1972 to track the EEOC’s regulatory language and to clarify that employers must “reasonably accommodate. . . an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice” unless the employer is “unable” to do so “without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” §2000e(j). Pp. 4–6.


(2) Hardison concerned an employment dispute that arose prior to the 1972 amendments to Title VII. In 1967, Trans World Airlines hired Larry Hardison to work in a department that operated “24 hours per day, 365 days per year” and played an “essential role” for TWA by providing parts needed to repair and maintain aircraft. Hardison, 432 U. S., at 66. Hardison later underwent a religious conversion and began missing work to observe the Sabbath. Initial conflicts with Hardison’s work schedule were resolved, but conflicts resurfaced when he transferred to another position in which he lacked the seniority to avoid work during his Sabbath. Attempts at accommodation failed, and TWA discharged Hardison for insubordination.


Hardison sued TWA and his union, and the Eighth Circuit sided with Hardison. The Eighth Circuit found that reasonable accommodations were available to TWA, and rejected the defendants’ Establishment Clause arguments. Hardison v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 527 F. 2d 33, 42–44. This Court granted certiorari. TWA’s petition for certiorari asked this Court to decide whether the 1972 amendment of Title VII violated the Establishment Clause as applied by the Eighth Circuit, particularly insofar as that decision had approved an accommodation that allegedly overrode seniority rights granted by the relevant collective bargaining agreement. At the time, some thought that the Court’s now-abrogated decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U. S. 602—which adopted a test under which any law whose “principal or primary effect” “was to advance religion” was unconstitutional, id., at 612–613—posed a serious problem for the 1972 amendment of Title VII. Ultimately, however, constitutional concerns played no on-stage role in the Court’s decision in Hardison. Instead, the Court’s opinion stated that “the principal issue on which TWA and the union came to this Court” was whether Title VII “require[s] an employer and a union who have agreed on a seniority system to deprive senior employees of their seniority rights in order to accommodate a junior employee’s religious practices.” Hardison, 432 U. S., at 83, and n. 14. The Court held that Title VII imposed no such requirement. Id., at 83, and n. 14. This conclusion, the Court found, was “supported by the fact that seniority systems are afforded special treatment under Title VII itself.” Id., at 81. Applying this interpretation of Title VII and disagreeing with the Eighth Circuit’s evaluation of the factual record, the Court identified no way in which TWA, without violating seniority rights, could have feasibly accommodated Hardison’s request for an exemption from work on his Sabbath.


The parties had not focused on determining when increased costs amount to “undue hardship” under Title VII separately from the seniority issue. But the Court’s opinion in Hardison contained this oft-quoted sentence: “To require TWA to bear more than a de minimis cost in order to give Hardison Saturdays off is an undue hardship.” Although many lower courts later viewed this line as the authoritative interpretation of the statutory term “undue hardship,” the context renders that reading doubtful. In responding to Justice Marshall’s dissent, the Court described the governing standard quite differently, stating three times that an accommodation is not required when it entails “substantial” “costs” or “expenditures.” Id., at 83, n. 14. Pp. 6– 12.


(3) Even though Hardison’s reference to “de minimis” was undercut by conflicting language and was fleeting in comparison to its discussion of the “principal issue” of seniority rights, lower courts have latched on to “de minimis” as the governing standard. To be sure, many courts have understood that the protection for religious adherents is greater than “more than . . . de minimis” might suggest when read in isolation. But diverse religious groups tell the Court that the “de minimis” standard has been used to deny even minor accommodations. The EEOC has also accepted Hardison as prescribing a “more than a de minimis cost” test, 29 CFR §1605.2(e)(1), though it has tried to soften its impact, cautioning against extending the phrase to cover such things as the “administrative costs” involved in reworking schedules, the “infrequent” or temporary “payment of premium wages for a substitute,” and “voluntary substitutes and swaps” when they are not contrary to a “bona fide seniority system.” §§1605.2(e)(1), (2). Yet some courts have rejected even the EEOC’s gloss on “de minimis,” rejecting accommodations the EEOC’s guidelines consider to be ordinarily required. The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that Hardison does not compel courts to read the “more than de minimis” standard “literally” or in a manner that undermines Hardison’s references to “substantial” cost. Tr. of Oral Arg. 107. Pp. 12–15.


(b) The Court holds that showing “more than a de minimis cost,” as that phrase is used in common parlance, does not suffice to establish “undue hardship” under Title VII. Hardison cannot be reduced to that one phrase. In describing an employer’s “undue hardship” defense, Hardison referred repeatedly to “substantial” burdens, and that formulation better explains the decision. The Court understands Hardison to mean that “undue hardship” is shown when a burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business. This fact-specific inquiry comports with both Hardison and the meaning of “undue hardship” in ordinary speech. Pp. 15–21.


(1) To determine what an employer must prove to defend a denial of a religious accommodation under Title VII, the Court begins with Title VII's text. The statutory term, “hardship,” refers to, at a minimum, “something hard to bear” and suggests something more severe than a mere burden. If Title VII said only that an employer need not be made to suffer a “hardship,” an employer could not escape liability simply by showing that an accommodation would impose some sort of additional costs. Adding the modifier “undue” means that the requisite burden or adversity must rise to an “excessive” or “unjustifiable” level. Understood in this way, “undue hardship” means something very different from a burden that is merely more than de minimis, i.e., “very small or trifling.” The ordinary meaning of “undue hardship” thus points toward a standard closer to Hardison’s references to “substantial additional costs” or “substantial expenditures.” 432 U. S., at 83, n. 14. Further, the Court’s reading of the statutory term comports with pre-1972 EEOC decisions, so nothing in that history plausibly suggests that “undue hardship” in Title VII should be read to mean anything less than its meaning in ordinary use. Cf. George v. McDonough, 596 U. S. ___, ___. And no support exists in other factors discussed by the parties for reducing Hardison to its “more than a de minimis cost” line. Pp. 16–18.


(2) The parties agree that the “de minimis” test is not right, but they differ in the alternative language they propose. The Court thinks it is enough to say that what an employer must show is that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business. Hardison, 432 U. S. at 83, n. 14. Courts must apply the test to take into account all relevant factors in the case at hand, including the particular accommodations at issue and their practical impact in light of the nature, size, and operating cost of an employer. Pp. 18.


(3) The Court declines to adopt the elaborations of the applicable standard that the parties suggest, either to incorporate Americans with Disabilities Act case law or opine that the EEOC’s construction of Hardison has been basically correct. A good deal of the EEOC’s guidance in this area is sensible and will, in all likelihood, be unaffected by the Court’s clarifying decision. But it would not be prudent to ratify in toto a body of EEOC interpretation that has not had the benefit of the clarification the Court adopts today. What is most important is that “undue hardship” in Title VII means what it says, and courts should resolve whether a hardship would be substantial in the context of an employer’s business in the commonsense manner that it would use in applying any such test. Pp. 18–19.


(4) The Court also clarifies several recurring issues. First, as the parties agree, Title VII requires an assessment of a possible accommodation’s effect on “the conduct of the employer’s business.” §2000e(j). Impacts on coworkers are relevant only to the extent those impacts go on to affect the conduct of the business. A court must analyze whether that further logical step is shown. Further, a hardship that is attributable to employee animosity to a particular religion, to religion in general, or to the very notion of accommodating religious practice, cannot be considered “undue.” Bias or hostility to a religious practice or accommodation cannot supply a defense.


Second, Title VII requires that an employer “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s practice of religion, not merely that it assess the reasonableness of a particular possible accommodation or accommodations. Faced with an accommodation request like Groff ’s, an employer must do more that conclude that forcing other employees to work overtime would constitute an undue hardship. Consideration of other options would also be necessary. Pp. 19–20.


(c) Having clarified the Title VII undue-hardship standard, the Court leaves the context-specific application of that clarified standard in this case to the lower courts in the first instance. Pp. 21.


35 F. 4th 162, vacated and remanded.


ALITO, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which JACKSON, J., joined.

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (US 20-1199 6/29/23) Affirmative Action | Higher Education


Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (UNC) are two of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States. Every year, tens of thousands of students apply to each school; many fewer are admitted. Both Harvard and UNC employ a highly selective admissions process to make their decisions. Admission to each school can depend on a student’s grades, recommendation letters, or extracurricular involvement. It can also depend on their race. The question presented is whether the admissions systems used by Harvard College and UNC are lawful under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


At Harvard, each application for admission is initially screened by a “first reader,” who assigns a numerical score in each of six categories: academic, extracurricular, athletic, school support, personal, and overall. For the “overall” category—a composite of the five other ratings— a first reader can and does consider the applicant’s race. Harvard’s admissions subcommittees then review all applications from a particular geographic area. These regional subcommittees make recommendations to the full admissions committee, and they take an applicant’s race into account. When the 40-member full admissions committee begins its deliberations, it discusses the relative breakdown of applicants by race. The goal of the process, according to Harvard’s director of admissions, is ensuring there is no “dramatic drop-off” in minority admissions from the prior class. An applicant receiving a majority of the full committee’s votes is tentatively accepted for admission. At the end of this process, the racial composition of the tentative applicant pool is disclosed to the committee. The last stage of Harvard’s admissions process, called the “lop,” winnows the list of tentatively admitted students to arrive at the final class. Applicants that Harvard considers cutting at this stage are placed on the “lop list,” which contains only four pieces of information: legacy status, recruited athlete status, financial aid eligibility, and race. In the Harvard admissions process, “race is a determinative tip for” a significant percentage “of all admitted African American and Hispanic applicants.”


UNC has a similar admissions process. Every application is reviewed first by an admissions office reader, who assigns a numerical rating to each of several categories. Readers are required to consider the applicant’s race as a factor in their review. Readers then make a written recommendation on each assigned application, and they may provide an applicant a substantial “plus” depending on the applicant’s race. At this stage, most recommendations are provisionally final. A committee of experienced staff members then conducts a “school group review” of every initial decision made by a reader and either approves or rejects the recommendation. In making those decisions, the committee may consider the applicant’s race.


Petitioner, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), is a nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is “to defend human and civil rights secured by law, including the right of individuals to equal protection under the law.” SFFA filed separate lawsuits against Harvard and UNC, arguing that their race-based admissions programs violate, respectively, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. After separate bench trials, both admissions programs were found permissible under the Equal Protection Clause and this Court’s precedents. In the Harvard case, the First Circuit affirmed, and this Court granted certiorari. In the UNC case, this Court granted certiorari before judgment.


Held: Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 6–40.


(a) Because SFFA complies with the standing requirements for organizational plaintiffs articulated by this Court in Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm’n, 432 U. S. 333, SFFA’s obligations under Article III are satisfied, and this Court has jurisdiction to consider the merits of SFFA’s claims. The Court rejects UNC’s argument that SFFA lacks standing because it is not a “genuine” membership organization. An organizational plaintiff can satisfy Article III jurisdiction in two ways, one of which is to assert “standing solely as the representative of its members,” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 511, an approach known as representational or organizational standing. To invoke it, an organization must satisfy the three-part test in Hunt. Respondents do not suggest that SFFA fails Hunt’s test for organizational standing. They argue instead that SFFA cannot invoke organizational standing at all because SFFA was not a genuine membership organization at the time it filed suit. Respondents maintain that, under Hunt, a group qualifies as a genuine membership organization only if it is controlled and funded by its members. In Hunt, this Court determined that a state agency with no traditional members could still qualify as a genuine membership organization in substance because the agency represented the interests of individuals and otherwise satisfied Hunt’s three-part test for organizational standing. See 432 U. S., at 342. Hunt’s “indicia of membership” analysis, however, has no applicability here. As the courts below found, SFFA is indisputably a voluntary membership organization with identifiable members who support its mission and whom SFFA represents in good faith. SFFA is thus entitled to rely on the organizational standing doctrine as articulated in Hunt. Pp. 6–9.


(b) Proposed by Congress and ratified by the States in the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall “deny to any person . . . the equal protection of the laws.” Proponents of the Equal Protection Clause described its “foundation[al] principle” as “not permit[ing] any distinctions of law based on race or color.” Any “law which operates upon one man,” they maintained, should “operate equally upon all.” Accordingly, as this Court’s early decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause explained, the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed “that the law in the States shall be the same for the black as for the white; that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the States.”


Despite the early recognition of the broad sweep of the Equal Protection Clause, the Court—alongside the country—quickly failed to live up to the Clause’s core commitments. For almost a century after the Civil War, state-mandated segregation was in many parts of the Nation a regrettable norm. This Court played its own role in that ignoble history, allowing in Plessy v. Ferguson the separate but equal regime that would come to deface much of America. 163 U. S. 537.


After Plessy, “American courts . . . labored with the doctrine [of separate but equal] for over half a century.” Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483, 491. Some cases in this period attempted to curtail the perniciousness of the doctrine by emphasizing that it required States to provide black students educational opportunities equal to—even if formally separate from—those enjoyed by white students. See, e.g., Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U. S. 337, 349–350. But the inherent folly of that approach—of trying to derive equality from inequality—soon became apparent. As the Court subsequently recognized, even racial distinctions that were argued to have no palpable effect worked to subordinate the afflicted students. See, e.g., McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Ed., 339 U. S. 637, 640–642. By 1950, the inevitable truth of the Fourteenth Amendment had thus begun to reemerge: Separate cannot be equal.


The culmination of this approach came finally in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483. There, the Court overturned the separate but equal regime established in Plessy and began on the path of invalidating all de jure racial discrimination by the States and Federal Government. The conclusion reached by the Brown Court was unmistakably clear: the right to a public education “must be made available to all on equal terms.” 347 U. S., at 493. The Court reiterated that rule just one year later, holding that “full compliance” with Brown required schools to admit students “on a racially nondiscriminatory basis.” Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294, 300–301.


In the years that followed, Brown’s “fundamental principle that racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional,” id., at 298, reached other areas of life—for example, state and local laws requiring segregation in busing, Gayle v. Browder, 352 U. S. 903 (per curiam); racial segregation in the enjoyment of public beaches and bathhouses Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Dawson, 350 U. S. 877 (per curiam); and antimiscegenation laws, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1. These decisions, and others like them, reflect the “core purpose” of the Equal Protection Clause: “do[ing] away with all governmentally imposed discrimination based on race.” Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U. S. 429, 432.


Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. Accordingly, the Court has held that the Equal Protection Clause applies “without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality”— it is “universal in [its] application.” Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U. S. 356, 369. For “[t]he guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color.” Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265, 289–290.


Any exceptions to the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee must survive a daunting two-step examination known as “strict scrutiny,” Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 227, which asks first whether the racial classification is used to “further compelling governmental interests,” Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306, 326, and second whether the government’s use of race is “narrowly tailored,” i.e., “necessary,” to achieve that interest, Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin, 570 U. S. 297, 311–312. Acceptance of race-based state action is rare for a reason: “[d]istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U. S. 495, 517. Pp. 9–16.


(c) This Court first considered whether a university may make racebased admissions decisions in Bakke, 438 U. S. 265. In a deeply splintered decision that produced six different opinions, Justice Powell’s opinion for himself alone would eventually come to “serv[e] as the touchstone for constitutional analysis of race-conscious admissions policies.” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 323. After rejecting three of the University’s four justifications as not sufficiently compelling, Justice Powell turned to its last interest asserted to be compelling—obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a racially diverse student body. Justice Powell found that interest to be “a constitutionally permissible goal for an institution of higher education,” which was entitled as a matter of academic freedom “to make its own judgments as to . . . the selection of its student body.” 438 U. S., at 311–312. But a university’s freedom was not unlimited—“[r]acial and ethnic distinctions of any sort are inherently suspect,” Justice Powell explained, and antipathy toward them was deeply “rooted in our Nation’s constitutional and demographic history.” Id., at 291. Accordingly, a university could not employ a two-track quota system with a specific number of seats reserved for individuals from a preferred ethnic group. Id., at 315. Neither still could a university use race to foreclose an individual from all consideration. Id., at 318. Race could only operate as “a ‘plus’ in a particular applicant’s file,” and even then it had to be weighed in a manner “flexible enough to consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant.” Id., at 317. Pp. 16–19.


(d) For years following Bakke, lower courts struggled to determine whether Justice Powell’s decision was “binding precedent.” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 325. Then, in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court for the first time “endorse[d] Justice Powell’s view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.” Ibid. The Grutter majority’s analysis tracked Justice Powell’s in many respects, including its insistence on limits on how universities may consider race in their admissions programs. Those limits, Grutter explained, were intended to guard against two dangers that all race-based government action portends. The first is the risk that the use of race will devolve into “illegitimate . . . stereotyp[ing].” Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S. 469, 493 (plurality opinion). Admissions programs could thus not operate on the “belief that minority students always (or even consistently) express some characteristic minority viewpoint on any issue.” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 333 (internal quotation marks omitted). The second risk is that race would be used not as a plus, but as a negative—to discriminate against those racial groups that were not the beneficiaries of the race-based preference. A university’s use of race, accordingly, could not occur in a manner that “unduly harm[ed] nonminority applicants.” Id., at 341.


To manage these concerns, Grutter imposed one final limit on race-based admissions programs: At some point, the Court held, they must end. Id., at 342. Recognizing that “[e]nshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend” the Constitution’s unambiguous guarantee of equal protection, the Court expressed its expectation that, in 25 years, “the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” Id., at 343. Pp. 19– 21.


(e) Twenty years have passed since Grutter, with no end to race-based college admissions in sight. But the Court has permitted race-based college admissions only within the confines of narrow restrictions: such admissions programs must comply with strict scrutiny, may never use race as a stereotype or negative, and must—at some point—end. Respondents’ admissions systems fail each of these criteria and must therefore be invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 21–34.


(1) Respondents fail to operate their race-based admissions programs in a manner that is “sufficiently measurable to permit judicial [review]” under the rubric of strict scrutiny. Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin, 579 U. S. 365, 381. First, the interests that respondents view as compelling cannot be subjected to meaningful judicial review. Those interests include training future leaders, acquiring new knowledge based on diverse outlooks, promoting a robust marketplace of ideas, and preparing engaged and productive citizens. While these are commendable goals, they are not sufficiently coherent for purposes of strict scrutiny. It is unclear how courts are supposed to measure any of these goals, or if they could, to know when they have been reached so that racial preferences can end. The elusiveness of respondents’ asserted goals is further illustrated by comparing them to recognized compelling interests. For example, courts can discern whether the temporary racial segregation of inmates will prevent harm to those in the prison, see Johnson v. California, 543 U. S. 499, 512–513, but the question whether a particular mix of minority students produces “engaged and productive citizens” or effectively “train[s] future leaders” is standardless.


Second, respondents’ admissions programs fail to articulate a meaningful connection between the means they employ and the goals they pursue. To achieve the educational benefits of diversity, respondents measure the racial composition of their classes using racial categories that are plainly overbroad (expressing, for example, no concern whether South Asian or East Asian students are adequately represented as “Asian”); arbitrary or undefined (the use of the category “Hispanic”); or underinclusive (no category at all for Middle Eastern students). The unclear connection between the goals that respondents seek and the means they employ preclude courts from meaningfully scrutinizing respondents’ admissions programs.


The universities’ main response to these criticisms is “trust us.” They assert that universities are owed deference when using race to benefit some applicants but not others. While this Court has recognized a “tradition of giving a degree of deference to a university’s academic decisions,” it has made clear that deference must exist “within constitutionally prescribed limits.” Grutter, 539 U. S., at 328. Respondents have failed to present an exceedingly persuasive justification for separating students on the basis of race that is measurable and concrete enough to permit judicial review, as the Equal Protection Clause requires. Pp. 22–26.


(2) Respondents’ race-based admissions systems also fail to comply with the Equal Protection Clause’s twin commands that race may never be used as a “negative” and that it may not operate as a stereotype. The First Circuit found that Harvard’s consideration of race has resulted in fewer admissions of Asian-American students. Respondents’ assertion that race is never a negative factor in their admissions programs cannot withstand scrutiny. College admissions are zerosum, and a benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former at the expense of the latter.


Respondents admissions programs are infirm for a second reason as well: They require stereotyping—the very thing Grutter foreswore. When a university admits students “on the basis of race, it engages in the offensive and demeaning assumption that [students] of a particular race, because of their race, think alike.” Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 911–912. Such stereotyping is contrary to the “core purpose” of the Equal Protection Clause. Palmore, 466 U. S., at 432. Pp. 26– 29.


(3) Respondents’ admissions programs also lack a “logical end point” as Grutter required. 539 U. S., at 342. Respondents suggest that the end of race-based admissions programs will occur once meaningful representation and diversity are achieved on college campuses. Such measures of success amount to little more than comparing the racial breakdown of the incoming class and comparing it to some other metric, such as the racial makeup of the previous incoming class or the population in general, to see whether some proportional goal has been reached. The problem with this approach is well established: “[O]utright racial balancing” is “patently unconstitutional.” Fisher, 570 U. S., at 311. Respondents’ second proffered end point—when students receive the educational benefits of diversity—fares no better. As explained, it is unclear how a court is supposed to determine if or when such goals would be adequately met. Third, respondents suggest the 25-year expectation in Grutter means that race-based preferences must be allowed to continue until at least 2028. The Court’s statement in Grutter, however, reflected only that Court’s expectation that race-based preferences would, by 2028, be unnecessary in the context of racial diversity on college campuses. Finally, respondents argue that the frequent reviews they conduct to determine whether racial preferences are still necessary obviates the need for an end point. But Grutter never suggested that periodic review can make unconstitutional conduct constitutional. Pp. 29–34.


(f) Because Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points, those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause. At the same time, nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university. Many universities have for too long wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin. This Nation’s constitutional history does not tolerate that choice. Pp. 39–40.


No. 20–1199, 980 F. 3d 157; No. 21–707, 567 F. Supp. 3d 580, reversed.


ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS, ALITO, GORSUCH, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. GORSUCH, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. KAVANAUGH, J., filed a concurring opinion. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined, and in which JACKSON, J., joined as it applies to No. 21–707. JACKSON, J., filed a dissenting opinion in No. 21–707, in which SOTOMAYOR and KAGAN, JJ., joined. JACKSON, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case in No. 20–1199.

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