Ricci v. DeStefano: Court Determines Test Results Must Be Certified; Case Decided on Statutory Grounds, and Not on the Equal Protection Clause

This case’s result is not surprising. The pressure of having human expectations rejected was too strong to be ignored. The City of New Haven should have settled this case before reaching this point. After spending additional precious tax revenues to oppose the firefighters who brought the case, New Haven still has to certify the test results.

The Court ruled that it was impermissible for the city of New Haven, Connecticut, to refuse to certify the promotional test results without a strong basis in evidence that the test was deficient and that discarding the results is necessary to avoid violating the disparate impact provision of Title VII.

Post script:

A link to my previous post which explains the facts of the case when the case was at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

A link to the slip opinion


Ricci v. DeStefano: Test Results Should Be Certified; Application of Racial Quota Cases Inappropriate

The  Ricci v. DeStefano case involves an issue of human expectation denied and how to correct it. I think, however, that arguing that the unfairness is based on the race of the test takers is extreme and unfair. The sole question should only be whether the city’s civil service board acted appropriately in denying the certification of the test results. Unfortunately, because of an ill-timed test validation hearing within the certification hearing, the case has become a symbolic case against racial quotas, a situation that is not presented in the case.

The full fact situation for the Ricci case in the District Court of Connecticut is here.

In summary, the facts for Ricci are as follows. In March 2004, the New Haven Civil Service Board (CSB) declined to certify the results for two exams which would have generated lists of eligible persons that could qualify for a promotion to be a captain or Lieutenant of the New Haven Fire Department.

The plaintiffs are 17 White candidates and 1 Hispanic candidate who took the promotional exams, which they passed. The plaintiffs did not receive a promotion in part because the CSB did not certify the test results (passing the test alone does not guarantee promotion).

The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants.

Ultimately, the Ricci case is one of fairness, not race, as asserted by some on the Second Court of Appeals. The test results should be certified, but not for the reasons asserted by some on the Second Circuit or the Supreme Court (see the Questions Presented here and here). The plaintiffs are asserting that they took a test for which there is a result, and, thus, they argue that those test results should be certified. The defendants appear to have discovered after the test was developed, that the test that their contractor prepared was not what they wanted. So, in an attempt to cancel the test and redo the test, the defendants brought up concerns about Title VII.

Unfortunately, the City of New Haven acted too late. The hearing which was described in the district court’s opinion should have occurred when the test was being developed and not at the certification hearing.

Moreover, the review process that the contractor for the city’s department of human resources (DHR) followed is problematic. However, it appears that the DHR left it to the contractor to determine how to develop the test. This was a mistake. The defendants should have identified what they wanted for the test in the RFP as well as DHR review of the test before approving it for use as the promotional test. This process was not done in this case. The request for proposal asked for a test to be written and validated by the contractor. Then the DHR would administer that test.

Thus, the test results should be certified unless the test itself violated Title VII (not shown in the facts of the Ricci case), not that someone could potentially file a claim.

However, I strenuously disagree with the approach of certain members of the Second Circuit. The abhorrent racial quota cases cited by the Second Circuit (Adarand, Croson) are extremely out of context and not on point for the Ricci fact situation (employment testing).

Related links:

Adarand Constructors v. Pena

Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC on Employment Testing