This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
United States Supreme Court began its summer break this week. One of the last
decisions of its term will likely cause employers to take greater care in how
they choose workers to promote.
case involved tests that the city of New Haven, Connecticut, gave to firefighters
in two thousand three. Minorities were heavily involved in the testing process because
of disputes over earlier examinations. But the only firefighters who qualified for
immediate promotion to lieutenant or captain were whites and two Hispanics, no
City officials believed that offering
promotions based on the results would violate the nineteen sixty-four Civil
Rights Act. Title seven of that federal law says employers cannot discriminate
based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
it not only bars "disparate treatment." It also bars "disparate
impact" -- actions that are not meant to discriminate but in fact
disproportionately harm minorities.
The city canceled the test results,
fearing legal claims by minorities who failed the exams. Instead, white and
Hispanic firefighters who passed went to court. Their case reached the Supreme
Court, and in a five-to-four decision on Monday they won.
Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. "The City," he said,
"rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates
were white." Fear of legal action alone, he said, "cannot justify an
employer's reliance on race" if it hurts qualified individuals.
for the dissenters, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said the white firefighters who
scored high "understandably attract this Court's sympathy." But, she
said, they had no right to a promotion.
majority found that the city failed to prove a disparate impact violation. But
the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the provision itself. Still,
Kevin Russell, a lawyer who specializes in Supreme Court cases, says the ruling
puts all employers to a task. They have to make sure a test is truly unlawful
before changing it.
judges on a federal appeals court had earlier sided with the city of New Haven.
Their ruling, now reversed by the Supreme Court, was not unusual. But the case
got special attention because one of the judges was Sonia Sotomayor.
President Obama has nominated her to replace retiring
Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Her Senate confirmation hearings are
set to begin July thirteenth.
that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm