A New York court will decide whether applicants to an apprenticeship program need a high school diploma or an equivalent, according to the Mechanical Contractors Association of America.

The case, EEOC v. Joint Apprentice-ship Committee of the Joint Industry Board of the Electrical Industry, will have a bearing on plumbing and mechanical apprentices in New York. The Joint Apprenticeship Committee requires applicants to have a high school degree or GED.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the organization, claiming the rule violates federal civil rights because it disqualified a large number of black applicants. Under federal law, a work rule that is non-discriminatory on its face may still be illegal if it has a disparate impact on minorities. If an employer can show legitimacy for the rule, it will be considered legal.

An earlier court decision in favor of the EEOC was overturned because a trial judge did not allow the Joint Apprenticeship Committee a chance to show evidence of the rule's legitimacy.