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Court Rules for Buffalo in Firefighter Discrimination Lawsuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on July 31, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in on a firefighter discrimination lawsuit this week, finding that the city of Buffalo, New York, did not discriminate against African-Americans with the test it used to promote firefighters, Thomson Reuters News & Insight reports.

In upholding the test results, the Second Circuit concluded that an employer can show that "promotional examinations having a disparate impact on a protected class are job related and supported by business necessity when the job analysis that produced the test relied on data not specific to the employer at issue."

The case involved tandem appeals from Men Of Color Helping All Society Inc, or MOCHA, a fraternal organization representing African-American firefighters in Buffalo, reports Thomson Reuters. MOCHA claimed that Buffalo violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by administering promotional tests that were racially discriminatory.

According to the complaint, only 43 percent of African-Americans passed the promotional tests, compared to 76 percent of their white counterparts.

In the majority opinion, Judge Reena Raggi wrote that "the district court had sufficient evidence to make a preponderance finding that Buffalo's use of that test to promote firefighters to the rank of fire lieutenant was job related and consistent with business necessity."

This is by no means the first firefighter discrimination lawsuit for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The New York-based appellate court previously considered Ricci v. DeStefano. The Supreme Court had the final word in that case, holding that the New Haven Fire Department's decision to invalidate test results based on a statistical racial disparity violated Title VII.

Three months after the Supreme Court decided Ricci, Michael Briscoe, one of the African-American New Haven firefighters who sat for the controversial exam, challenged New Haven's promotion process again, alleging that the weighting of the written and oral sections of the test was arbitrary and unrelated to job requirements. Though a district court dismissed the case, the Second Circuit reinstated Briscoe's claim last year.

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