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The theory of disparate impact, also known as “adverse impact,” allows challenges to employment or educational practices that are nondiscriminatory on their face but that have a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups. When the U.S. Supreme Court first recognized the theory, it was hailed as a breakthrough for civil rights. However, civil rights advocates have been disappointed as federal courts have limited how and when plaintiffs may file disparate impact claims. Disparate impact suits have become less successful over time.

Evolution of Disparate Impact Theory

The theory of disparate impact arose out of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Company (1971), which challenged the company's requirement that employees pass an intelligence test and complete their high school diplomas to ...

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