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In the year 2003, the New Haven Fire Department gave out oral as well as written exams for those who were to be promoted to the posts of Captain and Lieutenant. It then followed that the Fire Department gave an Illinois company, known as IOS, the go ahead to design the exams to be given to the employees who had an interest in getting promoted. However, when the results were released, it was realized that there was gender disparity. Seven whites and two Hispanics passed the tests, but there was not even a single black candidate who made it through. The exams given had focused on knowledge, skills and methods of firefighting; they were written as well as oral tests. But, the black candidates who participated in the tests said that there was a hidden biasness against the minority groups. Issues were raised on why the exams focused more on memorization than writing.
It is important to note that all these concerns were raised because the issue of race was not balanced in the outcome of the tests. For example, the black firefighters could believe that they were being discriminated against. It meant that most of those to be promoted to the higher posts would be only whites while the blacks remained in lower positions. However, in my own opinion, there would be no problem if there was a less discriminative way of giving promotion.
It is for this reason that the board sat and voted on not certifying the results. The decision made the white and Hispanic firefighters, sue the board so that the results could be certified. However, the trial court ruled in favor of the Board, but the impact of the case had just begun. The question that comes out of this is whether the city was reasonable or not in making the decision basing on lack of minority representation.
In my own view, I don’t think the City of New Haven was reasonable in denying those who passed the tests a chance to be promoted. This is because all the parties (blacks, whites and Hispanics) were given equal opportunities and the same exam at the same time; this means that only those who passed it could be promoted. Everyone had a chance to make it; important positions are supposed to be earned basing on performance as well as potential for any responsibility. On the other hand, it should not be based on the color or demographics. Each individual needs to compete for better opportunities on the same level. An important fact to be noted is that, about thirty eight percent of New Haven’s population is black, forty four percent is white, and then twenty four percent Hispanic (Michael, 2004).
At the time when the tests were taken, fifty percent of the firefighters, sixty percent of lieutenants as well as eighty six percent of captains were from the white community. On the other hand, the blacks were thirty percent of the firefighters, twenty two percent lieutenants and only four percent of the captains. History showed that they have been less in the department since long ago.
This case had a huge impact on several other workplaces across the United States. It meant that personnel departments had to be considerate in making decisions that concern hiring and promoting of new employees. In this case, it could be fair to say that the White and Hispanic firefighters are the ones who were unfairly discriminated; reverse discrimination. The outcome of the case could go as far as affecting issues such as firing, disciplinary actions or hiring in the workplace, not forgetting promotions.
Though the city could have been under a tight situation, for example, if the results of the test had been used, the black firefighters could have sued the city, this could not have been a valid reason to make them determine or change the results which seemed fair to everyone. The New Haven Board was erroneous in throwing out the results of the exam because there was nothing, which actually indicated that there was racial biasness in the tests.
However, the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits any type of discrimination basing on color, race, sex, religion, or national origin. So, those who passed the exams were discriminated on the basis of race. In this case, individuals should stop using race as a factor in making decisions in government institutions. It seems only fair that, anyone who works hard for a promotion or anything else in that matter should get it, in this case, the promotion. On the other hand, when the High Court reversed the trial court, there could be other implications on the City of New Haven since matters concerning race and politics are tricky. There could be racial division in the city as well as racial and political tension. There could be tension between the Blacks and Latino.
The suit meant to affect how race should be considered when filling government as well as private jobs. The dispute also raises a number of other questions on race and racial progress. For example, do minority groups, as well as women, need legal protection from any type of discrimination. The other question is whether the monumental civil rights laws, which created a nation for equal opportunities, now bring more harm than good?
There also some other issues that come up, such as, in most tests, blacks are always found to score lower that the whites. It is a good thing if the city tried to make sure that all the races are represented in all public sectors. This should be done in a different way than offering tests then discredit then later. That is being sarcastic. While all these facts may lead to fewer opportunities for qualified minority groups, the use of the race factor will do more harm to the social fabric. The firefighting case of New Haven could show that there still exists a populist anger on the issue of affirmative action, but a lot of care should be taken while doing this.
But, New Haven should come up with a new way of diversifying its fire department. It is imperative to note that employment tests where minority groups do poorly can be challenged in court, but on the basis that they are not related to the job. However, in this Haven City case, it is not the court but the city that found the test to be faulty, this is after political protests. The decision to disregard the results hurt those who sat for the test and passed, and as a result were waiting for the promotion, only to be denied the opportunity.
It is important to note that under the federal law, the fact that a group can score better than another on a test does not guarantee a chance of illegal discrimination. So, an employee should not alter the results of a test basing on the facts dealing with race. New Haven and other employers should probably look for tests that would be job-related as well as lessen racial disparities.
If the city of New Haven abandoned the results of the test for the reason that black firefighters did score poorly, it would imply that race was taken into account for the purpose of advancing minority participation. According to the law under Title VII, before any employer could engage in intentional discrimination for the reason of avoiding a disparate impact, which is unintentional, the employer must then build up evidence to believe it will be under disparate-impact liability in case it fails to take the discriminatory action.
However, in my own view, while it was important for the city to balance its workforce along racial lines, all the evidence showed that the City rejected the results for the mere reason that the white candidates were the highest scoring. When the city asserted that the examinations were not related to the job, they contradicted themselves. They took measures and steps to develop as well as administer the tests. The city seemed to turn a blind eye to the evidence which supported that the exams were valid.
In conclusion, the fear of litigation should not have justified the City relying on race so as to inconvenience those individuals who passed the exams and qualified for the promotions. Doing away with the results of the test was impermissible under Title VII, and summary judgment is appropriate for petitioners on their disparate-treatment claim. The city would, in future, look for alternative ways of promoting all the races equally, but not giving a test then disqualifying it. It is understandable for the city to be faced with a dilemma. Had they certified the results, the minority groups could have felt disadvantaged and probably sue them. This could cause more rifts or division between the affected races. As a result the city could be divided along racial lines and hence future unrests. However, the city could only refuse to acknowledge the result if they were not related to the work.
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