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October 7, 2010
Hayden v Nassau County, CA2, 180 F.3d 42
The Hayden decision sets out some of the major considerations that are relevant in attempting to demonstrate “reverse discrimination” in civil service examinations.
After an exam was administered to 25,000 police department applicants in Nassau County in 1994, experts evaluated the 25 test sections administered to determine if any had an adverse impact on minority test-takers as well as whether the test questions were sufficiently job-related. The county only counted nine of the 25 test sections in computing the exam score. William Hayden and 67 other white, Latino and female applicants to the Nassau County Police Department brought a lawsuit in federal district court alleging that “a police officers’ entrance exam designed to minimize the discriminatory impact on minority candidates necessarily discriminated against them.”
The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York affirmed a U.S. district judge’s dismissal of the action. It called the exam a “race-neutral entrance examination with the purpose of eliminating or reducing the differential effects suffered by minority candidates.” Although Nassau County was “conscious of race” in redesigning its entrance exam, “it treated all persons equally in the administration of the exam,” the court said. Everyone took the same test and all tests were scored in the same manner, and no differential cutoffs or race norming was used, the court said.
The Court of Appeals rejected all of the arguments presented by Hayden, holding that he had failed to allege facts that, if proven true, would entitle the class to relief. Reviewing each of Hayden’s theories justifying relief, the court said that:
1. Equal protection: To state a claim for an equal protection violation, appellants must allege that a government actor intentionally discriminated against them on the basis of race, national origin or gender. Here is undisputed that the exam was administered and scored in an identical fashion for all applicants. The exam was not scored differently on the basis of a candidate’s ethnicity or gender, nor were differential cut-off points used for applicants of different races or sexes. In contrast to affirmative action tools, such as quota systems, set-aside programs, and differential scoring cutoffs, which utilize express racial classifications and which prevent non-minorities from competing for specific slots or contracts, the Circuit Court said that Nassau’s efforts were not unlawful.
2. Facially neutral policy applied in discriminatory manner: Also rejected was Hayden’s arguments concerning facially neutral ordinance was discriminatorily applied.
3. Discriminatory intent and effect: Although Hayden claimed “an equal protection violation”, the court said it agreed with the district court’s conclusion that in order to prevail it must be alleged that Nassau County harbored a discriminatory intent against the class and that the entrance examination disproportionately impacted them. No such claims which would demonstrate either discriminatory intent or discriminatory impact were put forth.
The court’s conclusion: “Nassau County sought to design a police officers’ entrance examination which would reduce the discriminatory impact of its hiring practices on minority candidates. Although the decision to redesign the exam certainly took race into account, the exam was administered and scored in a wholly race-neutral fashion. We conclude that race-neutral efforts to address and rectify the racially disproportionate effects of an entrance examination do not discriminate against non-minorities.”
Accordingly, the Circuit Court ruled that “the 68 white and Latino appellants, male and female, in this case fail to state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause, Section 703 of Title VII, and Sections 106 and 107 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.”
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