When is racial discrimination in workforce employment ever ok?

by on January 2, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Temporary affirmative action plan approved by court

You may practice affirmative action in hiring – as long as what you do is limited in its scope and duration, said a court.

An employer’s decision to promote three qualified African Americans who had test scores identical to a group of 10 non African Americans who weren’t promoted was narrowly tailored to remedy past racial discrimination within the organization, said a court. As such, the promotions were lawful and not discriminatory.

The employer was a police department, but a similar scenario could occur in almost any organization.

The department had a method for promoting people: they went right down the ranks, promoting qualified candidates based on test scores.

Traditionally, among candidates with identical rank and score, the promotion was based on seniority.

In this case there were openings for 36 promotions and about twice as many candidates. The department departed from its usual method to promote three qualified African Americans who didn’t have seniority. Ten disgruntled candidates filed a lawsuit alleging reverse racial discrimination: They had identical test scores and ranks, plus seniority.

But the court ruled in the department’s favor saying no reverse racial discrimination had occured. Here’s why:

· This was just one round of promotions – in which there were far more candidates than positions – so no person had a legitimate expectation of being promoted. Taking three candidates outside the normal circumstances, just this one time, was deemed acceptable.
· No valid policies were violated by the selective promotions, and no precedent was set for future selective hiring.
Cite: Cotter v. City of Boston, U.S. Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit, No. 02-1404, 3/25/03.

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