Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 129 S.Ct. 2658 (2009)

One hundred eighteen firefighters took written examinations administered by the city of New Haven, Connecticut in order to qualify for promotion to the rank of lieutenant or captain. When the examination results showed that white candidates had outperformed minority candidates, the mayor and other local politicians opened a public debate that “turned rancorous.” Some

Yesterday, in a highly anticipated 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Ricci v. DeStefano that the City of New Haven engaged in unlawful intentional race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) when it discarded a firefighter promotional test because of the racial makeup of the successful test takers. The City claimed that the test had a disparate impact on minorities and that, if it certified the test results and proceeded with promotions, it would have been sued for discrimination by minority test takers. The Court held that the City had to show a strong basis in evidence that it would be liable in such a suit – something more than the statistical results of the test – in order to justify throwing out the test and discriminating against the successful test takers, most of whom were white. It further held that, upon its review of the factual record, the City could not meet this burden. Reversing the Second Circuit (which had affirmed the trial court decision), it found that summary judgment should be entered against the City. The factual background of the case, opinion of the Court and the implications of the case for employers are discussed below.

The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”) creates a variety of affirmative action obligations for employers with federal government contracts. The Act was amended in 2002 by the Jobs for Veterans Act (“JVA”). In May 2008, the Department of Labor finalized rules that implement changes to these obligations made by the JVA for employers with federal government contracts that are entered into or modified on or after December 1, 2003. Employers with federal contracts entered into before December 1, 2003 must continue to comply with VEVRAA’s pre-JVA requirements, and employers with contracts in both categories are required to comply with both the new and the old regulations.

Most of the affirmative action requirements set out in VEVRAA remain unchanged by the JVA. This Tip of the Month outlines several important requirements under VEVRAA, and highlights the key changes created by the JVA.

Hicks v. KNTV Television, Inc., 160 Cal. App. 4th 994 (2008)

Bradford Hicks, a white man, was the 5:00 p.m. weeknight news anchor for KNTV. After KNTV chose not to renew Hicks’ contract, it selected an African-American man to fill the position Hicks had vacated. Hicks alleged race discrimination and wrongful termination, asserting that KNTV was under “pressure in the industry to hire minorities