Opinion of the Court
"(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
"(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a).
The Court did not quote or cite the full statute, but rather relied solely on §703(a)(2). Griggs, 401 U. S., at 426, n. 1. In interpreting §703(a)(2), the Court reasoned that disparate-impact liability furthered the purpose and design of the statute. The Court explained that, in §703(a)(2), Congress "proscribe[d] not only overt discrimination but also practices that are fair in form, but discriminatory in operation." Id., at 431. For that reason, as the Court noted, “Congress directed the thrust of [§703(a)(2)] to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation." Id., at 432. In light of the statute's goal of achieving "equality of employment opportunities and remov[ing] barriers that have operated in the past" to favor some races over others, the Court held §703(a)(2) of Title VII must be interpreted to allow disparate-impact claims. Id., at 429–430.
The Court put important limits on its holding: namely, not all employment practices causing a disparate impact impose liability under §703(a)(2). In this respect, the Court held that “business necessity” constitutes a defense to disparate-impact claims. Id., at 431. This rule provides, for example, that in a disparate-impact case,