Please assist in answering the following question in regard to the New Haven Firefighters Affirmative Action case. I am less interested in the legal aspects, focus for me on you view regarding normative ethics and your personal managerial thoughts on the matter
From a managerial perspective: Did the city of New Haven act reasonably in rejecting the test results based on the lack of minority representation?
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.
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: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103289178
Certainly there is something wrong about the test. There is no way, if there is nothing wrong with the test, that those who passed would be mostly of one ethnic group and those who failed would belong to different ethnic groups. So the question arises, was the test about firefighting or about something else? This is why the role the administration or the management played is very crucial.
Now, to the question, « Did the city of New Haven act reasonably in rejecting the test results based on the lack of minority representation? » The answer is no. If they thought that there was something wrong with the test, they should not have administered it in the first place. They decided to cancel the results because they were afraid of being sued for discrimination. But you do not ask somebody to take a test, and after the taking that test and passing it, then turn around and say that there is something wrong with the test based on the results! This cannot pass any moral test at all. You cannot condemn something you approved of simply because it did not produce the result you wanted it to produce. What needs to meet the moral test is the law; in this case the test administered to the fire fighters, and not the consequences of that law, in this case the asymmetrical outcome of the result of the test.
But this goes beyond the city of New Haven. Apparently there is an extant federal law that says that if the results of a test favor one particular ethnic group over another, then the test could be seen as discriminatory. This law, unfortunately, does not address the real issue. The spirit of that law might be right but its letters are inept. The law should not be attacking the results but the tests themselves. The issue is about the kinds of tests that could produce such results. Such tests should be seen as being mediocre and therefore should not be administered at all. This is because we live in a multi racial and multi ethnic society, so our policies should reflect that diversity. The controversial test apparently did not reflect that diversity, and so the outcome is somewhat embarrassing to the city officials.
If therefore we look at it from the moral (deontological) point of view, one could say, on the one hand, that the test could not pass the universalization test because it ...
This post takes a look at the etichal issues sorrounding affirmative action, taking as case study the New Haven Firefighters Affirmative Action case. When is affirmative action justified? Is discrimination inherent to affirmative action? These are some of the issues examined here.