The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Rooney Rule in Effect? Bears Interview 2 Black Candidates for GM

More candidates have been announced for the Bears GM hire, and the Rooney Rule will be satisfied as two of the four candidates are black.

With the departure of Jerry Angelo, the Bears announced they are going to interview Phil Emery (Chiefs college scouting director), Jason Licht (Patriots director of pro personnel), Jimmy Raye III (Chargers director of player personnel), and Marc Ross (Giants college scouting director) for the position, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The announced candidates fulfill two requirements in the GM search. First, all of them have a background in talent evaluation. Second, two of the candidates -- Marc Ross and Jimmy Raye -- are black, though that's not to say they are not independently qualified candidates as well.

If you are a football fan, you're probably familiar with the "Rooney Rule." The rule, named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires that teams interview at least one non-white candidate for head coaching and senior front office opportunities.

And if you are familiar with employment laws, you probably also know the axiom that hiring decision should be color-blind. So how does the Rooney Rule coexist with anti-discrimination laws which preach color-blindness?

The Rooney Rule is arguably an affirmative action programs. Such programs are a response to a sad history in America of excluding certain minority groups from jobs. Because of this history, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission permits affirmative action programs that "overcome the effects of past or present practices, policies, or other barriers to equal employment opportunity." In effect, you're allowed to consider color if that helps overcome past discrimination.

However, affirmative action programs can be very difficult to implement and employers should work closely with an employment attorney if using such a program.

The Bears GM hire highlights the history of race discrimination in America. The Rooney Rule can be viewed as an affirmative action program and the Bears interviewing two black candidates can be viewed as the program working, (if Marc Ross and Jimmy Raye were selected only because of their race), or the program being outdated, (if they would have been selected anyway).

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