Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Supreme Court Ruling in Ricci v. Destefano

On June 29, 2009 the Supreme Court ruled 4-5 in favor of the New Haven’s Fire Department’s decision to toss out promotional tests because of possible disparate treatment. Sixteen white and one Hispanic firefighter took the New Haven Service Board (CSB) to court for reverse discrimination. The 17 plaintiffs had taken and successfully passed the departments promotional assessment but were later told that the test was no longer going to be considered a factor for promotion because none of the black applicants passed the assessment.

The CSB needed to illustrate that there was legal motive for discarding the exam. I will not go into the details concerning adverse impact cases at this point but you can consult Gaurdians of New York v. Civel Service Commissions, 1980; Gillespis v. Wisconsin, 1985 or US v. City of New York, 2009 for several examples of such cases.
After reversing the lower court ruling Justice Kennedy ruled that the CSB took appropriate action.

This case has been all over the news because of the possible changes from its outcome. As IO psychologists the major take away we should examine is the importance of the validation process in measurement development (Police Officer v. City of Columbus, 1990) and being aware of potential reverse discrimination cases and/or disparate treatment cases in the future.

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