Constitutional Law Keyed to Brest
Ricci v. DeStefano
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits action that intentionally discriminates based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in employment decisions (disparate treatment). It also prohibits actions that are not intended to discriminate, but result in a disproportionately adverse impact on minorities in employment decisions (disparate impact). In situations where an employment practice or policy has a disparate impact on minorities, an employer must show that the policy or practice is related to the position and is necessary for the operation of the business. The plaintiff can still succeed if he shows that an alternate practice exists that meets the employer’s needs and reduces the disparate impact and that the employer refuses to adopt it. In this case, the city of New Haven, Connecticut used objective examinations in its promotion process within the fire department. The exams were 60 percent written and 40 percent oral. One such exam was administered to fill lieutenant and captain positions. The white candidates significantly outperformed minority candidates and caused a public outcry. The city, faced with threats of lawsuit from both sides of the issue, refused to certify the results of the test. White and Hispanic firefighters who had passed the exams but were not promoted when the results were thrown out brought suit alleging that the city’s actions discriminated against them based on their race in violation of Title VII. The defendants argued that certifying the results would have led to Title VII liability for putting in place a practice that led to a disparate impact on minority firefighters. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants and the court of appeals affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.
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