When It Comes to Firefighter Discrimination Cases, St. Louis Not Alone

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Ousted St. Louis Fire Chief Sherman George could have a friend in Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Not that it matters in the short term. Sotomayor's confirmation likely won't come until after the Supreme Court rules on a well-publicized suit in which white and Hispanic firefighters have sued the city of New Haven, Connecticut, on claims that they were discriminated against when the city threw out test scores from a 2003 exam. The exam in question would have resulted in no black firefighters being promoted. The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling soon.

As you'll recall, Mayor Francis Slay demoted George in 2007 after the fire chief refused to promote firefighters based on an exam that George believed discriminated against blacks. The case before the Supreme Court now is expected to clarify hiring procedures and civil-service exams that have left cities like St. Louis vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. Besides St. Louis and New Haven, Chicago, New York and Bridgeport, Connecticut, have all faced lawsuits over exams that applicants believe discriminated unfairly against whites and/or blacks.

Curiously, in the New Haven case, Sotomayor was part a three-judge panel that that upheld the city's decision to throw out test scores that failed to promote any blacks.

George, no doubt, would be pleased with the Supreme Court nominee's stance on the topic.


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