Supreme Court to Hear Case about Race in the Workplace

Staff Writer, April 23, 2009

The United States Supreme Court recently decided to hear a case brought by 20 firefighters from New Haven, Connecticut. The men, mostly white, are claiming that U.S. civil rights laws, which prevent discrimination against minorities in the workplace, are actually negatively affecting their success at work. They question to what lengths employers should be allowed to go to ensure that minorities are hired and promoted.

In 2003, the city of New Haven administered an exam with a multiple choice and oral question and answer section to its firefighters. The idea was to determine which employees would be best suited for promotion. After it was discovered that no black firefighters passed the exam, it was thrown out and a suspension on firefighter promotions was put in place.

The 20 men who complained (19 were white, 1 was Hispanic) had all passed the test and were disappointed that they were no longer in the running for a promotion. They claimed that they themselves were victims of discrimination because they were white. They sued the city, and were dismissed by several lower courts. This caused the case to progress to the Supreme Court, where it will be heard in the coming months. The decision may very well be a landmark for employment rights and laws.