The 2003 New Haven fire lieutenant examination had two parts: a multiple-choice written test and an oral exam. Ranking on the eligibility list depended on how the City chose to weight the scores on the two components. The oral exam was a better way to assess candidates’ skills and abilities than the written test and had less disparate impact on African-Americans. Yet the City chose to weight the written test 60 percent and the oral exam 40 percent. This weighting reduced the validity of the overall selection process; it was arbitrarily chosen, without any pretense that it was job related; it was contrary to standard practice among similar public safety agencies, where the norm is to weight the oral component 70 percent; it had a disparate impact on African-American candidates; and it will prevent the plaintiff from being promoted to the rank of lieutenant, even though he is one of the most highly qualified candidates.
Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion, warning about the inevitable clash of the equal protection clause and disparate impact.
I am on a brief layover now, so more time to blog later. More here http://abovethelaw.com/2009/10/black_firefighter_sues_city_of_new_haven.php