Ricci v. Destefano: Summary & Decision

Instructor: Janell Blanco
In this lesson, we will learn about the case of ''Ricci v. Destefano''. We will gain an understanding of the case and the background information as well as learn about the court's decision.

Personnel Problems

Have you ever been passed up for a promotion at work and wondered why? Did you question your skills? Did you wonder if you were being discriminated upon? What about reverse discrimination?

Hiring, firing, and promoting employees can be a difficult task. In this lesson, we will look at a case in which a fire department was faced with a tough decision when promoting their firemen -- and how they faced a lawsuit for that decision.

Ricci v. Destefano Summary

In the case of Ricci v. Destefano, the City of New Haven in Connecticut had the difficult task of promoting firemen to captains and lieutenants. In 2003, in order to make the promotions, the city had the firemen take a civil service exam, which is a test that shows their knowledge and understanding of their jobs.

The promotions were to be made based upon the top scores from the exam. After the department received the results, they realized that the test results were racially disproportionate. The top scores came from white men and one Mexican, with no black firemen scoring in the top 10. The New Haven Fire Department did not certify the exam because they did not have a racially diverse group to promote based upon the scores.

The department tried to avoid discriminating against one particular group but ended up discriminating against other. Sounds a little complicated, right? Instead of using the test results and making the promotions, the department chose not to certify the results.This did not sit well with the members of the department, in particular with Fireman Frank Ricci.

You see, Ricci was one of the top scorers. He felt that the city was using reverse discrimination, which is discrimination against members of a dominant group or sub-culture. In this case, the city did not certify the exam, which would indeed have promoted Ricci, who was white.

Ricci filed a lawsuit on behalf of himself against and others that did not get promoted, which led to the case of Ricci v. Destefano. The reasoning for the lawsuit is that Ricci felt that his civil rights were being violated and that the firemen were not granted their rights under the Fourteen Amendment of Equal Protection Clause. Joseph Destefano, pictured below, was the Mayor of New Haven at the time, which is why he was named in the lawsuit.

Mayor Joseph Destefano

We now know the parties involved in the lawsuit and the reasoning behind it, so we can take a look at how the courts ruled.

The Court's Decision

Did the court rule in favor of Ricci or did they support the city's decision not to certify the exam?

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