New Haven Firefighter Case Likely to be Showcased During Supreme Court Nominee Confirmation Hearing
What do SHRM and Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor have in common? A case, currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, titled Ricci v. DeStefano.
Soon after President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Washington lobbyists and policymakers began looking into her judicial background to gain insight into her views on labor and workplace issues.
One issue that is likely to be examined during Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearing is a federal Appeals Court ruling she participated in involving a claim of “reverse discrimination.”
As a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, Judge Sotomayor (along with two fellow judges) ruled in favor of the City of New Haven, Connecticut, when the City declined to certify the results of an exam used to promote fire department captains and lieutenants because too few racial minorities would have be promoted.
The case was brought by several Caucasian and one Hispanic firefighter who claimed that the City should have certified the exam results and that their refusal to do so violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The firefighters argued that the decision to throw out the test results was made based on the race of the employees who would be promoted, rather than whether the test was the best way to predict who would succeed in a captain or lieutenant position.
On March 25, 2009, SHRM filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of New Haven arguing that an employer should be able to consider alternative exams or procedures for determining promotions if a disproportionate number of minority candidates fail, a result that could open the employer up to charges of racial discrimination under Title VII.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in April 2009. A decision could be announced this summer – before Judge Sotomayor becomes a Supreme Court judge. To read SHRM’s amicus brief, click HERE.