Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reverse discrimination ruling leaves confusion

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Supreme Court ruling in favor of white New Haven firefighters who said they were victims of reverse discrimination will probably leave employers confused, civil rights advocates and labor attorneys say.

The court ruled 5-4 Monday that the white firefighters were denied promotions unfairly because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as a federal appeals court judge.

The majority of justices said the city was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results. The city said it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

While the court upheld that employers still have an obligation under civil rights laws to avoid discrimination in hiring, promoting and compensating workers, the ruling creates confusing standards on how to meet that obligation, said Wade Henderson, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

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