June 29, 2009

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NEW YORK – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the City of New Haven, Connecticut wrongly threw out a promotion examination for the city's firefighters, saying there was not sufficient evidence that the exam's impact on minorities violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The majority's rejection of New Haven's basis for its actions – vigorously disputed in the dissent – creates a new and more onerous standard for evaluating government efforts to ensure equal opportunity. It is clear, however, that the decision leaves intact Title VII's prohibition against both discriminatory treatment and policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact upon protected groups. The decision does not require employers to accept test results that have a racially disparate impact, but it makes it harder to reject them. Further, the decision acknowledges a government agency's responsibility to invalidate test results when there is a strong basis in evidence to believe that relying on the tests would have an illegal disparate impact on minority promotion-seekers.

The following can be attributed to Dennis Parker, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program:

"We are disappointed with today's decision because we believe that the city of New Haven had stronger reasons for believing that its test was discriminatory than the court acknowledged. However, the Court was clear today that employers need to scrutinize their hiring procedures before administering them to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory. Moreover, the decision leaves room for employers to take steps voluntarily to assure that discrimination in the workplace is eliminated and to guarantee that efforts to assure fair and equal access to employment can continue." 

A copy of today's decision is available online at: www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/07-1428.pdf

Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice

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