A former Nevada university professor who says she was discriminated against because she's white lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday.
The court, without comment, turned away Yvette Farmer's arguments that the University of Nevada, Reno, violated a federal anti-bias law when it hired a black sociology professor before her.In another case involving affirmative action, the justices refused to revive a program in Dade County, Fla., that boosted the award of construction contracts to black-owned companies.
The court turned away the county's argument that discrimination in its local construction industry is severe enough to justify a remedy. The justices have strictly limited such set-aside programs since 1989.
In the Nevada bias case, Farmer's appeal also contended that the university, which hired her a year later, illegally paid her less money than her black colleague.
She asked the court to decide what, if any, efforts are legal to achieve or enhance racial diversity in an employer's workforce if there's no proof of past discrimination.
That issue had been before the justices in a Piscataway, N.J., case, but civil rights activists engineered a settlement in November. They arranged a $433,500 payment to a white high school teacher to prevent what they feared would be a much-costlier defeat.
At issue in the Nevada case was a temporary affirmative action policy under which the university sought to increase the number of minorities among its faculty members.
Between 1989 and 1991, only 1 percent of the school's faculty were black; nearly 90 percent were white. The university added a "minority bonus policy" to its existing affirmative action program that allowed any department to hire an additional faculty member following the initial hiring of a minority candidate.
In 1990, the university's sociology department hired Johnson Makoba, a Ugandan emigrant and agreed to pay him $35,000 a year and raise that salary to $40,000 when he completed his Ph.D.
Farmer claims she was a more qualified candidate but the search committee that recommended hiring Makoba decided his qualifications "slightly exceeded" Farmer's.
In other action, the court:
- Let Syracuse, N.Y., continue sponsoring the annual display of a Christmas Nativity scene in a public park. The display was challenged as a government endorsement of religion.
- Agreed to decide whether police need a search warrant before peering through a gap in window blinds to detect possibly illegal behavior. The court will consider reinstating the Minnesota convictions of two men arrested on cocaine charges after a police officer saw them through an apartment window packaging a powdery substance.
- Ruled that copyright law does not protect companies that export their products from having them shipped back by another firm for sale in the United States.