Employment Discrimination Case Potential Lightning Rod for Obama’s Supreme Court Pick

A controversial employment discrimination decision–covered by the Joseph & Kirschenbaum blog back in April–promises to command national attention over the next several weeks, due to the fact that the case, Ricci v. New Haven, was adjudicated by President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.

Ricci was brought by local New Haven firefighters, who claimed that they had been passed over for promotion due to “unfair” affirmative action. Judge Sotomayor dismissed the claims and upheld a Federal District Court ruling in favor of the city of New Haven.

Political Lightning Rod?

The titular claimant, Frank Ricci, grew up economically disadvantaged, and he suffered from a severe learning disability, dyslexia. After tremendous effort and study, Ricci scored 6th out of 77 test-takers on a critical firefighter skills exam–definitely high enough to qualify for a promotion. However, because none of the African-American firefighters who took the exam scored a passing grade, the city of New Haven threw out the results and denied promotions for Ricci and 19 others (including two Hispanics).

The Supreme Court may take up the matter this summer. Whether or not the Court agrees with the claimants that the city of New Haven practiced workplace discrimination; or whether the Court sides with Sotomayor and the Connecticut Federal District Court, the broader political ramifications for the Ricci decision will now be much more highly charged, given Sotomayor’s new status as a nominee to the highest court in the land.  

Further complicating the dynamics is the fact that Judge Sotomayor would be the first female Latina Justice to preside on the Supreme Court. It’s a fair bet that her proponents and detractors alike will “read the tealeaves” in her decision on Ricci for hints at her worldview and judicial philosophy–particularly as they might apply to future harassment, workplace discrimination, and retaliation cases.

If you or a friend or family member has endured workplace harassment or race-based discrimination or retaliation, you can turn to the Law Offices of Joseph & Kirschenbaum for active and aggressive representation. Call our offices to set a free consultation.

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