NASCAR is facing potential legal challenges after it recently said it would exclude white people from applying for its top diversity internship program. The race car giant’s “diversity internship program” has a clear racial requirement – applicants must be a member of at least one of the following races/ethnic minority groups: Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Latino or Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
Though NASCAR advertises itself as an equal opportunity employer, its racially based internship program appears to violate Title VII and the 1866 Civil Rights Act, according to David Bernstein, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law. “Having a 100% quota for minorities for a position is illegal even under a very generous view of what is allowed,” Bernstein said in a statement. This means that any white person denied the opportunity to apply for the program would have legal standing to sue the company.
The news of NASCAR potentially violating Title VII and the 1866 Civil Rights Act comes as the company has voiced its support for diversity and inclusion. In 2020, the company apologized for having Texas’s Republican Gov. Greg Abbott appear at one of its races and this month NASCAR suspended a driver indefinitely for “liking” a meme on Instagram that made light of the death of George Floyd. Though some fans called for a Bud Light-style boycott of the racing league, the move now seems to have been in the spirit of the company's stance on diversity and inclusion.
But it's not just NASCAR with its racially exclusive internship program. Other prominent companies in the tech industry have been exposed for hosting race-based internship and scholarship opportunities, including Oracle, Best Buy, Liberty Mutual, US Bank, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals. These companies all participated in career advancement training programs from McKinsey and Company that banned white employees on the basis of their race.
Responding to these companies, the attorneys general from 13 different states recently warned companies that they will face “serious legal consequences” if they engage in racial discrimination. The chorus grew even louder on Thursday, as civil rights advocates and legal scholars condemned NASCAR’s racially exclusive internship program.
Though NASCAR has yet to respond to the legal threats, its continued promotion of diversity and inclusion suggest that the company is well aware of its potential to be targeted in a legal case. Whether or not NASCAR appears in court over its unequal hiring practices remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – the legal issues surrounding racial discrimination in the workplace are far from over.