California Corporate Diversity Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Friday’s ruling by a Los Angeles judge declared that California’s landmark law requiring corporations to diversify their boards with representatives from certain racial or ethnic groups was unconstitutional.

Judicial Watch, an conservative legal group, was granted summary judgment in the short ruling. The group sought a permanent injunction to stop the law’s signing last year. The judge’s reasoning was not explained in the ruling.

This measure requires that corporate boards of publicly traded companies in California have at least one member representing an “underrepresented group,” which includes LGBT, Black, Latino, Asian and Native American.

According to the lawsuit, it was a violation of the state’s constitutional equal-protection clause.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton stated in a statement that the decision was “declared unconstitutional” and one of the most significant attacks in modern times on constitutional prohibitions against discrimination.

Friday evening’s messages seeking comments from the state were not immediately returned.

The state, however, claimed that the law didn’t discriminate against or give preferential treatment to any person or group based on race, sex or color in the operation public employment, public education or public contracting.

However, no companies were fined and the state claimed that no tax dollars had actually been used to enforce this measure.

Corporations must include at least one member from an underrepresented community on the boards of directors. This can be done by either adding a seat to fill a vacancy or by adding another. Each corporation must have a minimum number of these members by Dec. 31, based on its total board size.

The secretary of state issued a March report entitled “Diversity on Boards”, which found that only 300 of 700 companies had filed the required disclosure statement. Half of these corporations did not file the required disclosure statements.

Los Angeles Judicial Watch is also challenging another California law that requires a woman to be a director on corporate boards.

The three-year-old law was already on unstable ground. A legislative analysis indicated that it might be difficult to defend, and the then-Gov. Jerry Brown stated that he signed it, despite the possibility of it being overturned by a judge.

The state supported the law as constitutional and said it was necessary to reverse discrimination that favors men. It was also only implemented after other measures had failed.