The U.S. Supreme Ct. has now heard arguments on a major case that tests our understanding of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
White firefighters in New haven, Ct., are suing the city because the city threw out the test scores of all applicants, Whites, Latinos, and Blacks alike on the grounds that not a single black applicant passed the promotion exam.
It was a classic case of heads I win, tails you lose. If the exam had not been challenged by white applicants who passed it then, since all blacks failed it, a court challenge would have come from a different quarter. No one alleges intentional discrimination – that isn’t necessary. It suffices that a certain practice or test have disparate racial impact, and certainly the firefighter exam did.
An important issue is whether the city had other valid alternatives than the test that would have caused less of an adverse impact on the identified group. Presumably, the white firefighters couldn’t think of any. So far as they were concerned, the test was race neutral and, in fact, no one has identified test questions that disadvantaged the black candidates for promotion. The case has the potential to be very far-reaching.
For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, here isTHE LINK TO the 93 page transcript of the oral arguments presented to the Court.