November 17, 2009

Black firefighters move to intervene in the Ricci v. DeStefano.

You may remember Ricci as the Supreme Court case won by white firefighters who lost out when New Haven canceled the results of a test that did not yield racially balanced results.

26 comments:

former law student said...

I guess the NHFD was right to fear claims of racial discrimination if it used the results of that test.

Welcome to "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." And thank you Supreme Court for micromanaging promotion decisions of every government agency.

Maguro said...

The problem, as Scalia acknowledged, is that the "disparate treatment" and "disparate impact" clauses are absolutely contradictory as applied to a case like Ricci. There's no way for any judge to reach a logically consistent verdict when two aspects of the same law are at war with each other.

mccullough said...

Too late. Study harder next time.

halojones-fan said...

The funny part is that under Title VII, it's possible to declare that the black firefighters haven't got a claim, since there was already a Title VII challenge to the hiring decision!

Kylos said...

former law student, I'd like to thank the Supreme Court for showing the idiocy of congressional micromanaging by engaging in their own version. If the Supreme Court is limited to merely frustrating the whims of Congress rather than stopping them outright, I'll accept that.

paul a'barge said...

Basically what black firefighters are saying is this: "If we can't discriminate against those nasty whites, we're being discriminated against".

Up is down now, on planet Earth.

rhhardin said...

They make tough dog toys out of firehose material.

Cedarford said...

Maguro said...
The problem, as Scalia acknowledged, is that the "disparate treatment" and "disparate impact" clauses are absolutely contradictory as applied to a case like Ricci. There's no way for any judge to reach a logically consistent verdict when two aspects of the same law are at war with each other.


Excellent comment.

When the laws were passed, there was a lot of wishful thinking that if only equal opportunity was given, equal results would be guaranteed.
Now we pretty much know that equal opportinity does not guarantee equal results...and have factions that it is just so. But we also have factions and lawyers that demand we jump through hoops to "explain" why the equal opportunity never existed in the 1st place given 40 years of disparity in things ranging from basketball teams to "disproportionate" Asians in computer sciences. That somehow, in the opinion of the latter factions - the last 40 years shows discrimination simply because results do not reflect perfectly the demographics. And demand "race/class/gender" norming.

Until Scalia's point is dealt with, the crap will continue.

lucid said...

Affirmative action is a morally corrosive acid that is eating away at our communal life.

ricpic said...

I'll up the ante on paul a'barge. These blacks are tacitly admitting that they can't score as well on the test as whites do no matter how many times they take it. Else why object?

former law student said...

Else why object?

Success on the test does not predict success on the job, but merely success in filling in the correct bubble with a No. 2 pencil.

ricpic said...

Hey FLS, you want stupid firefighters? Really think a brain has nothing to do with how well a life and death job is performed? But that's right, test performance has nothing to do with smarts.

MrBuddwing said...

Hey FLS, you want stupid firefighters? Really think a brain has nothing to do with how well a life and death job is performed? But that's right, test performance has nothing to do with smarts.

Given the chance to look at President Bush's and President Obama's college transcripts, I wonder what we would find - and I wonder if it would ultimately matter.

Cedarford said...

former law student said...
Else why object?

Success on the test does not predict success on the job, but merely success in filling in the correct bubble with a No. 2 pencil.


FLS, the qualifications extend past just a multiple choice exam. A multiple choice exam which had job-related questions on it quite similar in nature to the type of job-related questions you get trying to qualify multi-engine pilot or in OCS.
You know the answer to problems and show an ability to use info you had equal opportunity to apply in those problems. Or you don't know them. Questions like: "For 3 men approaching a commercial 200ft3 natural gas tank exposed to flame, what is the minimum safe distance? (A)75 feet; (B)You stay at least a mile away; (C)150 feet, (D) 500 feet.
You don't know, like with certain OCS or pilot questions like aerlion hydraulic pressure fluctuating - you can get yourself killed, or others..

But in addition to written exams, there is also a big factor in past job performance, supervisory abilities. Then after those items, a lengthly oral board. Many professions have these. For good reason. Cops, EMTs, nurses, hazardous materials drivers, nuke plant workers, military orals..

This is real world, not some case of HS students doing SATs where colleges can pretend scores don't reflect "actual ability".

Generally, it is not a good idea to say "I don't know. I guess I'll just ask the white, Asian, or hispanic subordinate who wasn't promoted but scored higher than me what I should do.."

mccullough said...

FLS,

Unlike IQ tests, these are knowledge-based exams. So one could study for them, even if you had to study harder than someone else.

But I agree with your point that credentials do not necessarily equate to capabilities.

former law student said...

Hey FLS, you want stupid firefighters?

Oh, it's an IQ test. If brains are the criterion, in 2012, let Obama compete against Palin by taking a series of IQ tests.

A multiple choice exam which had job-related questions

Can be passed by cramming. Could you pass your pilots' written exams tomorrow if you needed to?

The other problem is that the NHFD exam contained "right" answers that were actually wrong in terms of NHFD practice. Does it really make sense to have to remember to mark as correct things that would actually harm you on the job. But the chance for fraud was too great to let the NHFD draft the test -- under those conditions the in-crowd always got the answers in advance.

holdfast said...

1) This was a test to become a supervisor/officer, not to join the fire department. I think a a little book lernin' is important at the officer level.

2) The aggrieved party in this case was clearly no Phd candidate, and in fact spend considerable effort and personal funds to overcome his dyslexia and prepare for the exam. He did this because he was told this was the way to get ahead. If the complainant black firefighters had expended the same effort, they would very likely have done much better on the test.

Instead the city just decides that because the racial/scoring curve was not correct, that the test should be thrown out. How is that not the very definition of injustice. I mean, if they wanted to change the rules for future years to favor the black candidates, fine, though I still think it is wrong - but to change the rules right in the middle of the game ?

former law student said...

Instead the city just decides

Yep the Supreme Court decided that will never happen again. If any government agency fears a screw-up made test results invalid, that's too damn bad for them. If white people scored higher than blacks, that test must stand.

Maguro said...

If white people scored higher than blacks, that test must stand.

Would you mind explaining why they shouldn't? Whites score higher than blacks on the SATs and those tests stand.

Lawgiver said...

The other problem is that the NHFD exam contained "right" answers that were actually wrong in terms of NHFD practice.

Air Force firefighters take promotion and career progression tests every year. Regardless of what a particular base's policy may be, if you don't study and understand the published reference material you will not get promoted. I see no difference here.

former law student said...

Whites score higher than blacks on the SATs and those tests stand.

The SAT in its current form has been undergoing continuous validation and reliability testing since 1974. The NHFD was a one-of-a-kind custom test not subjected to any such testing.

Read the studies on this page:

http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/sat/validity-studies

former law student said...

Lawgiver -- is The Air Force Way the ideal for all forms of human endeavor, or just fighting fires?

Maguro said...

The SAT in its current form has been undergoing continuous validation and reliability testing since 1974.

Exactly. And yet despite all that, whites still outscore blacks by a large margin on the SAT. So the mere fact that whites outperform blacks on a given test doesn't indicate that the test in question is biased.

The Drill SGT said...

former law student said...
Hey FLS, you want stupid firefighters?

Oh, it's an IQ test. If brains are the criterion, in 2012, let Obama compete against Palin by taking a series of IQ tests.


FLS, your complaints about "objective" tests does not stand up when you add in the facts that the "objective" tests were demanded by the minority firefighters because the previous regime of oral exams and promotion boards did not give them the advantages they sought. The White FF, scored better on the leadership and oral exam boards as well, so the minorities sued and the city brought in outsiders to create a truly objectove test.

What the Black FF's want essentially is hard quotas with plus ups to cure systemic discrimination. e.g. a spoils system.

The Drill SGT said...

Can be passed by cramming. Could you pass your pilots' written exams tomorrow if you needed to?

Not likely, but what does stay with you is a basic understanding of the physics of flight. Velocity, altitude, atitude, time, etc. The instant instinctual judgement about what is safe, and what is stupid. The feel of flight.

same with the phsics and chemistry of firefighting. The instant instinctual judgement about what is safe, and what is stupid. The feel of a fire.

Lawgiver said...

Lawgiver -- is The Air Force Way the ideal for all forms of human endeavor, or just fighting fires?

I didn't know we were talking about all forms of human endeavor but since you asked, the Cowboy Way is the ideal way at least according to Ranger Doug, Woody Paul, and Too Slim.