Supreme Court Sides with City in Firefighter Discrimination Case


We're not sure if anyone popped open a bottle of bubbly yesterday in Room 200 of City Hall, but we know St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and his staff had to be pleased.

In a follow-up to an item we posted earlier this month, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the city of New Haven, Connecticut, discriminated against whites and Hispanic firefighters when the city refused to promote them because no black candidates scored as well as they did on promotional exams.

The Connecticut case is similar to a 2007 flare up in St. Louis in which the then fire chief, Sherman George, refused to promote firefighters after black candidates scored worse than whites on a test for captain positions. George's stance ultimately led Mayor Slay to replace him with an acting chief who made the promotions.

In New Haven, city officials feared that they might be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and therefore susceptible to lawsuits) if they did not promote any black candidates because of their exam scores. But in a narrow 5-4 ruling yesterday, the court's majority wrote that "fear of litigation alone cannot justify the city's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions."

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