The AT&T Consent Decree imposed an affirmative program guiding the employment practices of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company and the Bell System Operating Companies between 1973 and 1979.At that time (pre Bell break-up), these companies together comprised the nation’s largest private employer.Over the years, the case has received considerable scholarly attention (for a recent example, see B. Williams “AT&T and the Private-Sector Origins of Private-Sector Affirmative Action” Journal of Policy History, 2008. vol. 20. no. 4, 542-68.)The Third Circuit decision upholding the decree against challenges by several unions may be found as EEOC v. American Telephone and Telegraph Co. et al., 556 F.2d 167 (1977).
My involvement with the case began in 1976 when I drafted the brief for the government appellees (including the EEOC, the Department of Justice and the Department of labor).I then argued the case for the government appellees, along with David Rose of the Department of Justice, and worked with the Solicitor’s Office in drafting an opposition to a petition for certiorari (which was denied in 1978 notwithstanding some substantial support for the petitioner’s position in the intervening case of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977)).I also represented the government appellees in resisting a later challenge to the decree involving the denial of a position to a woman as a result of the decree-mandated affirmative action goals for men.[i]In 1978 and 1979 I participated in a review of the defendant companies’ compliance with the affirmative action obligations of the decree and the drafting of the government’s final report and wrote the Addendum to the report critiquing the goal-setting mechanism.
Experiences with the case led to my publishing a number of articles on affirmative action, especially affirmative action for women (the Third Circuit’s decision’s having been the first to consider constitutionality of court-ordered affirmative action separately for women and for racial minorities),[ii] as well as a number of articles questioning the perceptions of job segregation or assignment discrimination that played a large role in prompting the actions leading to the consent decree and influenced the nature of the affirmative action program .[iii]
A number of aspects of the AT&T case may eventually receive treatment here and various documents from the case in addition to the Addendum referenced above will eventually be made available here.
[i]See Telephone Workers Union of New Jersey Local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, 584 F.2d 31 (3rd Cir. 1978).