White Firefighters win; EEO debate heats up

by Aman Singh Das | June 29, 2009

  • My Vault

Race and its ramifications in hiring and promoting decisions have made the headlines today with the ruling by the US Supreme Court on the white firefighters’ appeal in New Haven, Conn. Were they cheated out of promotions because of the city’s knowledge that minorities would not make the cut? To find an answer to an abstract question of "Is fear of retaliation (or in this case, litigation) enough for employers to change track and deny all promotions?", did the Supreme Court just create a monster for HR and Diversity Managers?

Here’s the essence of this in a nutshell, as quoted in the New York Times: “The ruling could alter employment practices nationwide and make it harder to prove discrimination when there is no evidence it was intentional.”

The test in question executed by a third party for the city firefighters determined that no Black and only two Hispanic test-takers would be eligible for a promotion. Fearing retaliatory measures from minority groups, the city decided not to administer the test at all. Hence, this lawsuit.

The overlying question though comes down to this: Does fear of litigation deter employers from fair hiring and promotion decisions? Have our repeated efforts in gaining affirmative action become a bane for the white majority in America? And how is this going to play out at companies knowing that HR decisions have always been fraught with convoluted rules and many, many loopholes to be aware of? This Supreme Court ruling, then, makes it much harder to protect minorities' interests while promoting based on ability alone.

Because, from today onwards, when a white male gets promoted, will his African-American counterpart believe that it was based absolutely on ability alone and worse of all, know, that he cannot challenge it?

-Posted by Danielle Correa and Aman Singh Das

Filed Under: CSR

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