Active: Federal lawsuit challenges Minnesota’s social work board quota

Government regulatory boards are commonplace for countless professions throughout the country. Minnesota social workers are no exception, falling under the purview of the Minnesota Board of Social Work. Legislatively created in 1987, the board has 15 members—ten social workers and five members of the public. 

Another requirement of board membership, however, has nothing to do with social work and everything to do with racial balancing: At least five members must also be racial minorities. 

State law requires Minnesota’s governor not only to appoint all social work board members to four-year terms, but also to consider race when making appointments and deny opportunities for some qualified citizens to competently serve the public based on no reason other than their race. 

There are currently three open positions on the board, and six additional seats will open in January 2026. As of April 29, 2024, there are no pending appointments by Governor Tim Walz.  

Interested Minnesotans include two members of the American Alliance for Equal Rights who would like to be considered for the Board of Social Work. Neither member is from the state’s preferred race, and they are thus at a significant disadvantage for any of the openings. 

It’s wrong for the government to make assumptions about people’s experiences and qualifications based on arbitrary and offensive assumptions about race. And it’s unconstitutional. 

No government official should use an individual’s race or ethnicity to determine who gets the opportunity to serve the public. Treating people differently according to immutable characteristics like race violates the very notion of equality before the law. People should be treated as individuals, not as members of a group they did not choose. 

Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation at no charge, the American Alliance for Equal Rights is fighting back. Its federal lawsuit challenges the Minnesota Board of Social Work’s race-based membership quota as violating the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. A victory would ensure that all candidates can compete equally to serve on the social work board, regardless of race. 

Minnesota is not the only state that uses immutable characteristics to limit opportunities for individuals to serve their state and local communities. 

A report released by PLF found instances in 25 states where such unconstitutional discrimination has been codified. Without action, the problem is likely to worsen. PLF is working to defeat race and sex board quotas everywhere the unconstitutional practice is allowed. 

What’s At Stake?

  • Minnesota cannot use race to disqualify or disfavor individuals from public service. Race quotas are unjust, demeaning, and unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Treating people differently according to immutable characteristics like race violates the very notion of equality before the law. People should be treated as individuals, not as members of a group they did not choose.

Case Timeline

May 15, 2024

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