A reverse discrimination case is returning to the lower court after the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, found there were factual questions that needed to be answered before the trial court could dismiss the action.
The reverse discrimination case involved 12 white firefighters in Buffalo who were not promoted because the city allowed the promotion eligibility lists to expire early. The department has had a long history of ligation concerning race discrimination dating back to 1974.
The department’s test for entry-level firefighters was found to have resulted in discrimination against minorities. Pattern and practice discrimination was found in the department.
This type of systemic discrimination often occurs in workplace situations where the discrimination is not overt or intentional, but is the natural result how a hiring or promotion process is designed.
It can occur when women or minorities attempt to join a workplace that has long had a preponderance of white males, as has been the case in many police and fire departments. It can also occur in situations where promotions are only made from a defined pool of employees, and where few women or minorities are in those positions, they are excluded from consideration for promotion.
It also can show up in age discrimination cases, where layoffs and restructuring of a workforce has a disproportionate impact on older workers. During a reduction in force, the employer may ask departments to reduce their budgets, but because older workers may be more highly compensated, they can unfairly bear the brunt of layoff.
While the litigation was in process, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case involving reverse discrimination. Next time, we will look at the affects this ruling had on the Buffalo firefighter’s case.
Bna.com, “New York High Court Orders Rehearing of Firefighters’ Reverse Discrimination Victory,” Hassan Kanu, February 17, 2015