Official NAACP Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in New Haven Firefighters Case

The  Supreme Court ruling Monday in the New Haven Firefighter case is a disappointing setback to civil rights in America, the president of the NAACP said following the decision.

“This decision is a step backward for equal opportunity in employment” said Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We are very disappointed in the courts’ decision to create a new flawed legal standard. It is especially disappointing both given the racially charged dynamic in many cities’ fire departments and given that the Supreme Court has refused to allow the New Haven department to meet this new legal standard before making their decision.” Jealous said.

The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling overturned a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision that had upheld the city of New Haven’s attempt to review its testing process for promotions.  White firefighters, joined by one Hispanic candidate, filed the suit after the city threw out results of an exam in which black applicants’ pass rate was roughly half that of white applicants.

The city’s independent examination review board, which has authority to certify the test results, held hearings to determine if the test questions had been racially biased.   The five-member review board split evenly on the certification of the exam results, after one board member, citing a conflict of interest, declined to vote.

Monday’s ruling, however, did indicate that a majority of the Justices understand that discrimination remains a serious problem in America, and that government and our courts have a responsibility to take measures to address it, Jealous said.  “Despite today’s disappointing ruling, the laws of our Constitution still requires employers to avoid policies that are discriminatory in practice,” Jealous said. “It is vital that employers continue to diligently follow the range of steps to make sure they are providing equal opportunity in the workplace.  It is only through fair and equal opportunity that we can remove the barriers to assuring that we are able to realize America’s promise for everyone.” Jealous concluded.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members in the U.S. around the world advocate for civil and human rights, conducting voter mobilization campaigns, and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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