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The New Haven 20 and the Supreme Court
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The US Supreme Court will hear arguments in Ricci vs. DeStefano tomorrow. Listen to our discussion of the case here. A great resource for more information on the case (or any on the Supreme Court Docket) is the SCOTUS Wiki, where you can find all of the briefs filed in a case, like this one, filed by our guest Ilya Shapiro on behalf of the CATO Institute in support of Ricci et al.

Another amicus brief was filed by a group of firefighters from Bridgeport, CT, who have been dealing with a similar controversy relating to promotional exams. They say that the New Haven case is already impacting the wider Connecticut community because judges presiding over the litigation in Bridgeport have so far relied on the District and Circuit Court decisions in the Ricci v. DeStefano case.

And although the loudest part of this discussion has focused on black and white firefighters, Hispanic firefighters also have a major stake in the outcome of the case. Though one of the petitioners was a Latino firefighter who scored high enough on the exam to be promoted, the pass rate for Latinos department-wide was a meager 20%. The International Association of Hispanic Firefighters has sided with the city, but in a somewhat unexpected move, the New Haven Hispanic Firefighters Association has sided with the New Haven 20. The New Haven group’s leader, Rene Cordova, told the New Haven Independent that the controversy had been “unfortunate because it pitted everyone against each other. It strained relations; that’s what it did.”

It’s, no doubt, a contentious issue. Our calls to Rene Cordova and other area firefighters were not returned. Many of our listeners, however, were eager to weigh in:

“There is no such thing as reverse discrimination. It angers me every time I hear you say it (and others on NPR). Discrimination is defined as treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. There is no doubt that this case is bizarre and displays discrimination within the fire department, but it is discrimination plain and simple regardless of the race of the person being discriminated against.”

-Jennifer from New Haven

Some of the problem is the test itslef. In the profession of psychology, we talk about Validity (are you testing for what you think you are testing for), Reliability: if you repeat the test with another group of people (in this case, experienced firefighters) what is the likelyhood that you will get the same results? (this has to be done many times) Appropriateness: is what you are testing really a predictor for the qualities you are looking for.

-Alice fro Roxbury

Sued if you do, sued if you don't. Lose if you do, lose if you don't. How do employers avoid this double bind?


Thanks to everyone who called in and wrote.  Keep listening!


All Things Considered on case

Wanted to draw this Robert Siegel interview to your attention from yesterday's ATC.