Legal Momentum Statement on Supreme Court Decision Ricci v. DeStefano

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June 29, 2009

Decision Will Undermine Critical Role of Nation's Civil Rights Laws in Achieving Equality in the Workplace

June 29, 2009 - WASHINGTON, D.C. and NEW YORK -- Legal Momentum, the nation's oldest legal advocacy organization dedicated to advancing women's rights, is deeply concerned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today in Ricci v. DeStefano, a decision that will undermine the critical role of the country’s civil rights laws in the historic struggle of women and minorities to achieve equality in the workplace. The Court created a new, more stringent standard for employment discrimination claims in striking down the New Haven Fire Department’s attempt to ensure that its promotional exam did not discriminate against Black and Latino candidates.  We believe that the standard articulated by the Court reflects a flawed interpretation of Title VII and is contrary to congressional intent.

Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, stated: “Employment discrimination continues to be a major problem. To this day, women and minorities remain egregiously under-represented in many employment sectors. Astoundingly, the Court’s decision acknowledges this fact and yet requires employers to avoid policies and practices that would help to remedy this discrimination. This decision will make it far more difficult for women and minorities to get good jobs in fields that continue to exclude them, such as firefighting, and for employers to eliminate barriers that have proved discriminatory in their effect.”

Further, as a supporter of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, Legal Momentum strongly disagrees with those who might use the Court's decision to imply that Judge Sotomayor and her colleagues in the Second Circuit erred in their ruling below.  The Second Circuit panel of which Judge Sotomayor was a part acted with appropriate restraint in applying the precedent as it existed at that time.  The matter before  the Supreme Court involved issues of first impression and the Second Circuit’s opinion was consistent with the views of four Justices on the Supreme Court as well as with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice.

Legal Momentum joined in an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the Ricci case. The brief described how the disparate impact theory under Title VII has been instrumental in women’s entering “non-traditional” fields like firefighting.

About Legal Momentum

Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum is the nation's oldest legal  defense and education fund dedicated to advancing the rights of women and girls.