Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Supreme court attacks anti-discrimination practices


Supreme court decision in New Haven Firefighter case deals a blow to protection against discrimination in hiring and promotion.

On June 30th, 2009, the United States Supreme court found that white fire fighters were discriminated against when the City of New Haven discarded their test results. The court decided that fear of a lawsuit by minority fire fighters was not sufficient justification to reject test results with a disparate impact.

The ruling was decided 5-4 by the conservative majority. The conservative court seems to delight in narrowing or overturning civil rights legislation. The also actively hunt for cases linke this to narrow the intent of the legislated law.

The court decided that New Haven erred when it threw out the fire fighters test results. The test results plus the current New Haven civil service policy would have led to only one member of a minority group being promoted to officer level. A clear disparate impact in a city that is greater than 50% minority. The court also ignored testimony regarding the test itself. The test was skewed toward written answers rather than oral answers. Traditionally, Blacks do better on the oral part than on the written part.

However, the court failed to consider the long history of employment discrimination in government and fire fighting. Reading the disent, the history of anti-discrimination laws were extend to state and local governments because of the acute disrimination in police and fire fighting ranks.

"In the early 70s, when New Haven was 30% Black, only 3.6 percent of firefighter were Black. At the command level things were far worse. Only one officer of 107 was Black. Currently the city is over 50% minority but the senior ranks are 9% Black and 9% Hispanic.

The exam was also problematic. During testimony to the city of New Haven, the exam was

I have always been curious why fire houses have been so slow to integrate while other branches of state and local government are very diverse. I suspect fire fighting is one of the last of the "easy" jobs still controlled by nepotism and cronyism. I would propose reducing pay while increase the workload. Then we will see how quickly they hire minorities.

If you want to see the real truth, read Ginsburg's dissent starting on page 55. Also check out Griggs v. Duke power the most important case on employment testing.



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