WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday seemed willing to let a group of African Americans sue Chicago for discrimination over a hiring test that weeded out black applicants to become firefighters.
It is the second time in as many years that the high court has tackled discrimination in testing within the firefighting ranks. In a landmark case last year, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said New Haven, Conn., violated white firefighters' civil rights by throwing out an exam in which no African-Americans scored high enough to be promoted to lieutenant or captain.
In Monday's case, the city of Chicago decided to use a test to weed out potential firefighter trainee applicants. Anyone who scored 64 or below was deemed not qualified. But the city set a second cutoff score of 89 points.
Officials told applicants who scored below 89 but above 64 that although they passed the test, they likely would not be hired because of the large number of people who scored 89 or above. The majority of those in the top-scoring group were white; only 11 percent were black.