Question: In November and December 2003 more than 100 firefighters in
In November and December 2003, more than 100 firefighters in the New Haven Fire Department took written and oral examinations to qualify for promotion to lieutenant or captain. A written component counted for 60 percent of an applicant's score and an oral component constituted the remainder of the score. Candidates with a total combined score of 70 percent or better earned a passing score and were eligible for promotion. The pass rate for black candidates was roughly one-half of the corresponding pass rate for white candidates. Given the pool of candidates who passed the exam and the number of vacancies at the lieutenant and captain ranks, no black candidates would have received a promotion to either rank. Officials of the City of New Haven- who, according to a local ordinance, were required to certify the test results and the promotion lists for them to be official-voted not to certify the results. The officials' decision was motivated by a desire to avoid making promotion decisions that disproportionately adversely impacted black candidates and risked violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a result. Frank Ricci and 16 other white candidates, along with one Hispanic candidate, who passed the examination, but who were denied a chance at promotions due to the officials' decision not to certify the results, sued the City of New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano, and a number of other officials for, among other things, violating Title VII. They claimed that, by discarding the test results, the defendants discriminated against them based on their race. Was the city justified in refusing to certify the exam results and promotion lists due to its concern about potential disparate impact liability? Or were the plaintiffs correct that the city's decision resulted in disparate treatment against them because of their race?
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