Module 4 - Case
Discrimination and Affirmative Action
The New Haven Firefighters Affirmative Action has not received this kind of attention in a long time. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Santomayor ruled on a case in New Haven CT where there was a claim that the testing used for promotion within the New Haven fire department discriminated against minorities. This is not a law course so the legal details are not interesting here. We want to look at the managerial implications of this morally charged situation. So let's leave aside the issues of judicial activism and hermeneutics (interpretation) as a creative activity. From a managerial perspective, I want to know:
Did the city of New Haven act reasonably in rejecting the test results based on the lack of minority representation?
Be clear about the implications for a diverse workforce, or even the need. Should the city be seeking a demographic to their employees that matches that of the general population to begin with? Consider if this is a legitimate goal in making out your argument about this particular situation. For some media reaction you can read:
For an excellent legal overview you can read from findlaw.com
For the actual opinion from the court:
In 2003, the New Haven Connecticut Fire Department chose to use a test in order to determine qualifications for promotions. After the test was given and it became apparent that the large majority of people who got the highest scores on the test happened to be Caucasian (or non-Hispanic, non-African American, non-Asian, etc), the City of New Haven decided that the test was flawed and vacated the results of the test. As a result, a group of Caucasian fire fighters who passed or got the highest scores filed suit against the city of New Haven, claiming that the actions of the city of New Haven amounted to reverse discrimination. The legal argument they used is not relevant here, since this is not a paper on the merits of the case. What is interesting and relevant is whether the City of New Haven acted in a reasonable manner when they took the action that they did. Although the above summary may read simply, because issues of race, affirmative action and opportunity are so sensitive, any time an entity makes a decision related to race-based opportunity (or the lack of it), emotions run strong and everyone becomes a critic. As the NPR article notes, it seems that the city of New Haven was damned either way, whether they let the first test results stand (putting them at risk for accusations of discrimination from the non-Caucasian employees) or whether they vacated the test results (resulting in accusations of a different kind).
Ignoring issues and opinions on judicial activism and ignoring the nuances of the court opinions on this case, we can still find room for discussion of these events from a management perspective.
No doubt, New Haven city managers knew, even as they decided as they did, that the battle was not over and that it would not die quietly. Indeed, the case brought by the Caucasian firefighters made it all the way to the ...
This solution the managerial implications of the court rulings in the New Haven Firefighters vs the City of New Haven.