In what one journalist termed “the perfect storm for employers,” the United States Supreme Court settled the very controversial case of “Ricci v. DeStefano,” a major employment discrimination lawsuit.
The June, 2009, decision involved the following situation, as outlined in the case syllabus: “The City of New Haven, Connecticut, uses objective examinations to identify those firefighters best qualified for promotion. When the results of such an exam to fill vacant lieutenant and captain positions showed that white candidates had outperformed minority candidates, a rancorous public debate ensued. Confronted with arguments both for and against certifying the test results—and threats of a lawsuit either way—the City threw out the results based on the statistical racial disparity. The petitioners, who passed the exams but were denied a chance at promotions by the City’s refusal to certify the test results, sued the city and the respondent city officials, alleging that discarding the test results discriminated against them based on their race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The defendants responded that had they certified the test results, they could have faced Title VII liability for adopting a practice having a disparate impact on minority firefighters.”
This case puts the employer in a “no-win” situation, because the employer is forced to choose between facing liability for disparate impact discrimination or face liability for disparate treatment discrimination. What is your reasoned, legal opinion of this situation? Do you agree with the Court’s decision? Why or why not? How would you, the business manager, have handled a similar situation? How will this case affect your decisions regarding the hiring, the promotion, and the termination of employees? Can an employer still conduct a disparate impact analysis when faced with layoffs or terminations?
Case syllabus (provided by Cornell University Law School)
Ruling Upends Race’s Role in Hiring
By Jess Bravin and Suzanne Sataline
The Wall Street Journal
June 29, 2009
Ricci v. DiSalvo — Disparate Treatment Trumps Disparate Impact, But the Supreme Court’s Decision Leaves Employers With More Questions Than Answers…
If you want to learn more about this case, the audio recording of the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court is provided by the Oyez Project; it is approximately one hour in length.
Ricci v. De Stefano: Oral Argument and Opinion Announcement
The Oyez Project
The following article from law.com is attached, if you cannot access same through the official website.
High Court to Rule on Bias Avoidance in Major Job Discrimination Case
By Marcia Coyle
April 21, 2009