The U.S. Supreme Court today held that New Haven violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by ignoring test results in deciding which firefighters to promote.  The city could not justify promoting black firefighters ahead of whites and Hispanics by citing fear of a "disparate impact" lawsuit under Title VII.

[T]he City could be liable for disparate-impact discrimination only if the examinations were not job related and consistent with business necessity, or if there existed an equally valid, less-discrimnatory alternative that served the City's needs but that the City refused to adopt. . . . We conclude there is no strong basis in evidence to establish that the test was deficient in either of these respects.

Ricci v. DeStefano, No. 07-1428, slip op. at 28 (U.S. June 29, 2009).

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas joined.  Justices Breyer, Souter, and Stevens joined in Justice Ginsburg's dissent.

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