POSTED: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 2:35pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 2:23pm
Supreme Court hears reverse discrimination case from Connecticut firefighters...
20 firefighters from New Haven, Connecticut who qualified then were denied promotions took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.
The city turned them down because they're white and they're claiming discrimination.
Questions about whether this test was discriminatory led the city to scrap it altogether after no black applicants qualified.
The high court will decide if that is reverse discrimination.
"If you work hard and you study and apply yourself at your job, you can do well in America," said firefighter Frank Ricci.
But it didn't work out that way for Frank Ricci and 19 other firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut.
They passed the exam to become captains and lieutenants.
But since no black applicants passed and statistically some should have, the city scrapped the test and no one got promoted.
City officials fear the exam may have been discriminatory. Civil rights groups hope the Supreme Court agrees.
"It will be possible for employers to take actions to avoid discrimination when they are faced with test results that result in really outrageous preclusion of African americans," said John Payton of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
"The only thing wrong with this test is it didn't suit the political agenda of New Haven's Mayor," said Karen Torre, the attorney representing the firefighters.
It's a case that could affect all employers seeking diversity and trying to comply with title seven which is the federal law prohibiting employment discrimination.
The court must decide if New Haven has to prove the test discriminated or are the results proof enough?
Today, a government attorney noted design flaws in the test and called the scores "arbitrary."
Justices pressed attorneys to distinguish between racial discrimination, which is illegal, and race-conscious decisions, which are not.