New Haven, Conn. (City), usesobjective examinations to identify those firefighters best qualified forpromotion. When the results of such an exam to fill vacant lieutenant andcaptain positions showed that white candidates had outperformed minoritycandidates, a rancorous public debate ensued. Confronted with arguments bothfor and against certifying the test results--and threats of a lawsuit eitherway--the City threw out the results based on the statistical racial disparity.Petitioners, white and Hispanic firefighters who passed the exams but weredenied a chance at promotions by the Citys refusal to certify the testresults, sued the City and respondent officials, alleging that discarding thetest results discriminated against them based on their race in violation of, inter alia, Title VII of the CivilRights Act of 1964. The defendants responded that had they certified the testresults, they could have faced Title VII liability for adopting a practicehaving a disparate impact on minority firefighters. The District Court grantedsummary judgment for the defendants, and the Second Circuit affirmed.
(a) TitleVII prohibits intentional acts of employment discrimination based on race,color, religion, sex, and national origin, 42 U. S. C. §2000e-2(a)(1)(disparate treatment), as well as policies or practices that are not intendedto discriminate but in fact have a disproportionately adverse effect onminorities, §2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(i) (disparate impact). Once a plaintiff hasestablished a prima facie case of disparate impact, the employer may defend bydemonstrating that its
(b) UnderTitle VII, before an employer can engage in intentional discrimination for theasserted purpose of avoiding or remedying an unintentional, disparate impact,the employer must have a strong basis in evidence to believe it will be subjectto disparate-impact liability if it fails to take the race-conscious,discriminatory action. The Courts analysis begins with the premise that theCitys actions would violate Title VIIs disparate-treatment