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Ricci v. DeStefano

    Brief Fact Summary.

    White and Hispanic Firefighters sued the city of New Haven, Connecticut for their failure to use test scores that favored Hispanic and White candidates in promotion decisions.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers should have strong evidence that maintaining race-based hiring practices will have an unconstitutional disparate impact prior to making the decision about whether or not to begin those hiring practices.

    Facts.

    Firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut had to take written examinations prior to being promoted to lieutenant or captain. The performance of white candidates on the examinations far exceeded the scores of African American and Latino candidates on the examinations. The exam results, therefore, would only allow for the promotion of white candidates and Hispanic candidates. The city decided not to use the test scores and the white and Hispanic firefighters sued the city, for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 964 and the Equal Protection Clause.

    Issue.

    Whether employers should have strong evidence that maintaining race-based hiring practices will have a disparate impact prior to making the decision about whether or not to begin those hiring practices.

    Held.

    Yes. Employers will be held liable for cases with a discriminatory impact despite not having discriminatory intent.

    Concurrence.

    (Scalia, J.) Title VII requires affirmative action decisions where an employer would make a disparate-impact violation, and this violates equal protection.

    Discussion.

    The fact that no African Americans passed the exam was not enough justification for the city to fear liability for disparate impact claims. The city would only be held liable if the test was not related to the available position or there was a less discriminatory alternative to assessing each candidate’s qualifications.


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