A group of seven black New Haven firefighters have filed suit against the city seeking to again litigate the validity of the 2003 promotional examinations that gave rise to the US Supreme Court decision in Ricci v. DeStefano.
Gary Tinney , Linda D. Cohens , Bernard McNeil , Anthony Reese , Curtis Tolson , Michael Neal and Anthony Wells sued the City of New Haven and IAFF Local 825 alleging the 2003 promotion process violated their due process, equal protection, and 14th Amendment rights by using a testing process that adversely impacted African-American promotion candidates.
The suit follows the plaintiffs’ previous efforts to intervene in the Ricci case, in order challenge the 2003 process as having a “disparate impact” – or discriminatory effect on blacks. Those previous efforts were unsuccessful, but their point is well taken: the statistical data on the New Haven test showed that blacks did significantly worse in the selection process than whites, with pass rates that were 62.1% for lieutenants and 58.5% for captains of the white pass rate. Federal regulations established by the EEOC require that for a selection process to be presumptively valid the black pass rate must be 80% of the white pass rate.
The plaintiffs’ problem is that the US Supreme Court has already concluded that an employer who has gone through the great lengths that New Haven has gone through to eliminate racial bias, who has done everything short of playing with the numbers, cannot simply discard a promotional list based purely on the racial make-up of the list. Employers must have a strong basis in evidence to conclude that a selection process is racially flawed. To throw a list out requires something beyond proof that the 80% rule was violated.
The Ricci court concluded that New Haven lacked such a strong basis in evidence. How Tinney, et al expect a court to rule otherwise is puzzling, but we will have to wait and see.
Incidentally, down Rt. 95 a few miles, FDNY is battling a case of disparate impact discrimination of truly historic proportions. A little known fact: blacks fared better on FDNY’s hiring test (which was struck down by Judge Nicholas Garaufis) than did blacks on New Haven’s promotional test (which was upheld). The black pass rate on FDNY’s test was 66.6% of the white pass rate, compared to New Haven’s 62.1 and 58.5%.
To see the complaint: Tinney Complaint