Back in February, we blogged about the second case heard by the Supreme Court in the past couple of years concerning the disparate impact of a written exam on black firefighters. In Lewis v. City of Chicago, the plaintiffs scored high enough on the exam to be deemed “qualified,” yet they were denied hire in lieu of their (mostly white) competitors whose scores landed them the label “well qualified.” The district court ruled in favor of the black firefighters, but the 7th Circuit reversed, finding the lawsuit untimely.
On May 24, 2010, the Supreme Court revived the firefighters’ disparate impact claim in a unanimous decision. While the hiring exam was adopted outside the statute of limitations period, in 1996, its effects were felt each time the results were used to make hiring decisions.
Employers who use hiring or promotional exams would be wise to review them and their impact, regardless of how long ago and under whose watch the exams were adopted.