A Racial Bias Lawsuit Hits Pfizer | A Racial Bias Lawsuit Hits Pfizer – Students for Fair Admissions
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A Racial Bias Lawsuit Hits Pfizer

A federal suit says a fellowship program bars Asians and whites.

The Supreme Court next month will consider racial preferences in college admissions, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. A lawsuit filed Thursday against Pfizer for discriminating against whites and Asians underscores why the Justices need to make clear that racial preferences are invidious no matter the motive.

Like many businesses, Pfizer is seeking to increase the diversity of its workforce. Its Breakthrough Fellowship Program provides summer internships for rising college seniors, two years of full-time employment after college, followed by a corporate-funded scholarship for a two-year master’s program, another summer internship and guarantee of post-graduate employment.

But the program isn’t open to all comers. Applicants must “meet the program’s goals of increasing the pipeline for Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic and Native Americans.” An informational video says it aims to have “100 new leaders at Pfizer” from these “underrepresented” groups by 2025.

Unlike Harvard, Pfizer doesn’t even try to disguise its racial bias. Do No Harm, an organization of healthcare professionals, students and policy makers, argues in federal court that Pfizer’s program violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and New York law. Pfizer is based in New York City.

Title VI bars discrimination “under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Do No Harm says the law applies to Pfizer since it participates in Medicaid, Medicare, and programs funded by the National Institutes of Health. New York state and city also prohibit businesses from racially discriminating in job-training programs and internships such as Pfizer’s.

The suit says Pfizer overtly excludes whites and Asians from its program no matter their qualifications, which makes it even less legally defensible than race-conscious college admissions. Harvard uses “holistic” admissions to achieve a desired racial student balance, and evidence shows it admits blacks and Latinos with significantly lower SAT scores than whites and Asians.

The High Court’s misbegotten Grutter (2003) decision allowed colleges to consider race narrowly in admissions in the name of the benefits of a diverse student body. Yet the Court has declined to apply this rationale beyond college admissions, and Pfizer’s use of race isn’t narrowly tailored in any case.

Pfizer says it is confident that “all of our actions comply fully with all U.S. employment laws, including the Breakthrough Fellowship Program” and that “we create opportunities for people without taking them away from others.” That’s nice to hear, and we look forward to seeing the proof in court.

All the more so because racial preferences are increasingly infecting healthcare and medicine. Do No Harm notes that the medical journal Health Affairs boasts a Health Equity Fellowship that excludes whites, and it counts at least 33 universities and medical schools with scholarships that racially discriminate.

Duke University’s Department of Medicine offers to help repay loans for “under-represented minorities in medicine.” What about Asian and white students from disadvantaged backgrounds? A reader who sits on a top medical school’s admissions committee tells us highly qualified applicants are often rejected because of their “white privilege.”

The U.S. prospers when upward mobility is possible for people of all races and backgrounds. But there are many ways to help the disadvantaged without discriminating based on skin color. Racial preferences lead to balkanization and resentment, and the suit against Pfizer will test if they’re illegal.

Read the full piece at the Wall Street Journal here.

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