An opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the state’s program to encourage road building by companies owned by African Americans and Native Americans, but the court struck down provisions that applied the program to other minorities and women.
The News & Observer reported an opinion from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals arose from a lawsuit by H.B. Rowe Co., a contractor that lost a 2002 bid for roadwork in Iredell County.
The company submitted the lowest bid, but it didn’t get the contract because the N.C. Department of Transportation determined that Rowe didn’t do enough to try to get minority subcontractors to participate.
Rowe sued, claiming the state’s program, which is currently written to “encourage and promote” the inclusion of minority and disadvantaged businesses, is unconstitutional.
A judge disagreed. The appeals court found that through repeated studies, the state has shown that businesses owned by African Americans and Native Americans are unfairly left out of road building projects. The state’s law allows contractors a lot of leeway to prove they tried to get those businesses to take subcontracts.
By 2003, Rowe was one of 13 contractors out of 878 that failed to win a bid because of the minority requirement. But for other minority groups, the state’s figures do not prove a disadvantage, possibly because there aren’t enough construction companies owned by Asian-Americans or Latinos, the court found. And the state’s study shows that businesses owned by women are actually overrepresented in subcontract awards.
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