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Petit v. the City of Chicago

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1. What was the legal issue in this case? What did the court decide?

The legal issue in this case is whether or not the tests conducted by the Chicago Police Department (or CPD) for promotion to the rank of sergeant violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled that there was no violation of the Equal Protection clause. Even though the court acknowledged that the process of developing the test was created from data that reflected the views of white sergeants, the court also took into account that the raw scores of the tests were standardized based on race. This standardization eliminated whatever possible advantage the white exam takers had over the minority exam takers.

2. On what basis did the court conclude that a “compelling interest” existed for the police department to hire more persons of color as sergeants? Based on the testimony of Professor Samuel Walker about the lack of trust and the belief on police misconduct that was rampant among the minority group, the court concluded that the CPD needed a racially diverse police force. The compelling interest this would fulfill is the public trust and confidence which would follow if the police force had people of the same race as the minority groups. This public trust and confidence would further equate to greater cooperation in solving crimes which would make the police’s job easier.

3. On what basis did the court conclude that the use of race in these promotion decisions was “narrowly tailored?

The court used the requirements set by the Grutter case as their basis. According to that case, some form of discrimination is justified if there is a compelling state interest that justifies it. Again, going back to the testimony of Professor Walker, the need for minorities in the police force was necessary to earn the trust, confidence and cooperation of the diverse city. More specifically, the need for minorities within the rank of sergeant was necessary as this rank of officers were in the position to influence people in the streets thereby improving cooperation within and outside the police force. Another requirement of the said case was the need for the limitation of time. The tests in question were not used after 1991 nor have any race related promotions been made.

4. Do you agree with decision in this case? Why or why not?

Yes and no. I agree with the decision to the extent that there is neither a compelling argument nor evidence of discrimination. The fact that the test was based on data reflecting the views of white sergeants does not amount to discrimination if the knowledge being tested is something all patrol officers should know regardless of their race. However, from what I understand of the Equal Protection clause, all persons who are similarly situated must be similarly protected. Any discrimination must be based on a clear distinction to justify such discrimination. What the court failed to look into is why there were only 3 races being identified – whites, blacks and Hispanics, with everyone else in between being counted as white. In the end, 298 of the 402 promoted candidates were said to be white. But what remains a question is how many of them were actually white and, if a different race was thrown into that number, will it then not prejudice the number of white people actually promoted?

ENGEL V. RAPID CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT

1. What was the legal issue in this case? What did the court decide?

There were 2 main issues and 1 side issue in this case:

First, whether or not the Rapid City District School (or RCDS) is entitled to summary judgment. The court ruled in the negative since there was a genuine issue of material fact which was established. That is, whether or not RCDS was responsible for the hostile working environment suffered by Engel after their first corrective measure. On this note, the court ruled in the negative. The corrective measures imposed by RCDS were prompt and reasonable, even though it failed to totally abate the harassment. The court also pointed out that RCDS was not required to fire Herrera on the first complaint of harassment Second, whether or not RCDS is liable for constructive discharge. The court ruled in the negative. Engel failed to convince the court that the sexual harassment she suffered was deliberately intended by the employer. While RCDS was obviously negligent in abating the harassment, this negligence does not equate to liability for constructive discharge.

2. What did the plaintiff need to show in order to establish the employer’s liability for the hostile environment created by her coworker? What evidence supported the conclusion that the employer was liable?

As implied by the passages below, the plaintiff needed to show that the employer did not act on her claims of harassment. Or, if there were actions taken, these were not calculated to stop the harassment.

As the passages below indicate, the employer was NOT LIABLE because they had policies in place that the court was convinced were reasonably calculated to stop the harassment.

3. Why were the employer’ actions not sufficient? What else should the employer have done? Would it have been “safer” to terminate the harasser? The employer’s actions were not sufficient mainly because they failed to stop the harassment altogether. There was a threat of termination which was never carried out and there was even a decrease in the severity of the sanctions which encouraged Herrera in his activities. The employer could have transferred Herrera to a different office and/ or subjected him to counseling.

While it would have been “safer’ for Engel and the other women involved if the harasser were terminated, this would have been a temporary solution to a permanent problem. Herrera can just get a job somewhere else and harass someone else. From a legal standpoint, instant termination would be a violation of due process since it seems like a penalty that is too severe for the crime. Making lewd comments and touching another person is not tantamount to rape to justify the imposition of penalty along the ranks of capital punishment.

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