Ricci v. DeStefano



            Ricci V. DeStefano was a case that was argued in the Supreme Court of United States on April 22, 2009 and ruled on June 29, 2009. In New Haven city, firefighters would undergo some tests as examinations, the results of which were used to determined whether someone had qualified for promotion to either Lieutenant or captain positions. The results of these tests showed that the white candidates performed better than the other minority candidates’ i.e. the blacks. This outcome sparked uproar among black candidates and local politicians who issued threats to the City. The city then discarded the results based on racial discrepancy. The white and Hispanic candidates, who had passed the exams but were not promoted, thereafter sued the City officials for throwing away the results basing their action as discrimination against their race according to Title VII of Civil Rights Act (1964). This racial discrimination case brought by the Hispanic and White firefighters was used by Ricci to challenge the decision reached by New Heaven’s city officials to use examination results to offer promotion to the firefighters.

The much disputed examinations had the following procedures. The City’s rules for firefighters promotion was divided in to either the merit system or the firefighters union’s agreement. The merit system required the vacancy position be filled by one of the top three candidates who passed the examinations. The Union’s agreement required the tests to be both written and oral, with 40% of the score related to oral test and 60% on the written test. With the two agreements an independent company that specialized in designed nominations was contracted by the City to design the examinations for fire and police department. This particular case was facilitated by the examinations that New Haven firefighters took in 2003. In the Captain exam 64% of the candidates who had passed were white while 37.5% were Hispanic and Whites. In the lieutenant exam 58.1% of the successful candidates were white, 31.6% were black and 20% were Hispanic.

Following these results and the standards set by the EEOC, no black person was qualified for any lieutenant or captain poison. This led to open criticism and public debate .Some firefighters who deemed the results as discriminatory threatened the City if they used them while some of them said they were fair and threatened if City did not use them. Faced with these two forces of do and don’t, City decided to discard the tests, an issue that was not taken lightly by the white and Hispanic candidates who scored highly in the tests and would have acquired promotion if the results would have been validated. They therefore sued the City on allegation of discrimination based on Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause found in the U. S Constitution (Fourteenth Amendment).

Based on this new legal rule, the Supreme Court held that the City’s concerns about disparate impact of the results did not give a good explanation to its decision. The City was therefore found guilty of discriminating against the white and Hispanic candidates.








            In my analysis of the case Ricci V. DeStefano, City would have been held guilty of racial discrimination according to Title VII but also in reference to the same Act, City was not guilty as it made the decision to avoid racially disparate impact. In my opinion it was not unlawful for city to discard the test results. The City’s action neither violated the Equal Protection Clause nor Title VII. Title VII prohibits any form of racial discrimination against any race. City’s decision whatever it could have been would have been taken as discrimination. This is because when they discarded the results, the Whites and Hispanic firefighters got the impression that they were discriminated against. If they would have sided with the majority group of Whites and validated the results the Black would have also complained that they were discriminated against and that the results were not fair. City would have argued that it acted according to Title VII and engaged in policies and practices that would have reduced disproportional effects on the minority candidates.

The major conflict in this case is whether in an effort to avoid the disparate impact liability as described in Title VII, an employer has an excuse to exercise racial discrimination. Equal Protection clause encourages states to give equal treatment to every person. It prohibits any act of unequal treatment to persons under similar circumstances and conditions. According to the District court, the City was faced with a case of disparate impact liability and it was evident that it failed to certify the test results. The City had no other alternative that would have ensured less discriminatory impact. It is therefore evident that City acted according to the law and should not be counted liable according to Title VII. The District court supported the City because the issued exams were not job related and was not a necessity in growth of business and their decision was conclusive.

The facts of the case were that by the time the city was reaching the decision of discarding the results, the firefighters who were competing for promotions had already done and completed these tests. The City claimed that they reached their decision because disclosing the results would have made them liable to racial discrimination especially to the minority black students who said the results were biased. Title VII states that, employers should not intentionally discriminate against employee on basis of sex, color, national origin or religion. It also prohibits any practices and policies that may not necessarily have intentions to discriminate but have unequal effects on the minority group. Title VII, provided an exemption to employer’s liability if and only if he would provide a concrete evidence that failure to that this discriminatory action would lead to disparate impact.





Ricci v. DeStefano. Certiorari to The United States Court of Appeals for The Second Circuit. No. 07–1428. Argued April 22, 2009—Decided June 29, 2009


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