Affirmative action in government contracting is alive — barely.
On September 9, 2016, a federal appeals court upheld a Small Business Administration program that gives advantages to people who have suffered racial discrimination, reasoning that the law as written doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, because anyone can be the target of racial bias. The decision, which is based on paper-thin legal logic, is an attempt to keep remediation-based affirmative action from disappearing altogether. It may be too little, too late.
The program, known as 8(a) after the section of the Small Business Act in which it appears, gives a preference in government contracting to small businesses owned by “socially and economically disadvantaged” individuals. The law defines the socially disadvantaged as people “who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”
If this sounds like race-based affirmative action, that’s because it is. The SBA regulations implementing the law create a presumption that any member of racial minority has been subject to bias. Unless the presumption is overcome by evidence that the business owner hasn’t suffered discrimination — a pretty unlikely scenario — the program functions to give minority business owners an advantage.
Back in the day, the racial preference wouldn’t have been a legal problem. The original theory of affirmative action was precisely to remedy past discrimination by giving an advantage to those who had suffered its effects, namely racial minorities.
Keep reading this article at: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-09-13/the-thin-legal-case-for-affirmative-action-in-contracting