Does What Happens in Corpus Christi, Stay in Corpus Christi?
The City of Corpus Chrisi, Texas was faced with the threat of a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, Employment and Litigation Division. At issue was a long-standing debate over the city's physical fitness test for applicants. In response to an earlier inquiry by Justice about potential adverse impact, Corpus modified its standards. (How do you unilaterally modify standards if they've been validated?) The result was a slight improvement in relative passing rates. Ultimately, this was insufficient to appease DOJ who again renewed the threat of litigation.
The City Fathers opted for what was behind door #2; in September, 2012 they agreed to pay $700,000.00 and to enter into a consent decree ( Download Corpus Complaint ) with Justice. The consent decree provides individual relief in the form of back pay and/or priority hire relief to female applicants who were denied because they took and failed the challenged test. The proposed consent decree also requires the city to develop a new physical test.
As a result, a norm-based, gender-adjusted approach to scoring of the fitness test was implemented. The system is nearly identical to the one used by the FBI that in part resulted in summary judgment against the Bureau and the DOJ. If you recall from previous posts, those standards were also arbitrarily set; they were not appropriately validated, were not demonstrably job related, and were not consistent with business necessity as evidenced by the lack of policy and procedure supporting career-long physical readiness, all in violation of the Civil Rights Act.
The recent turn of events in the federal court in Virginia again calls into question the wisdom of violating a federal mandate to appease one potential plaintiff (the DOJ) while inviting a challenge from every other potential plaintiff, namely all of the applicants for the job of police officer in Corpus Christi who but for their gender would be treated differently. Time will tell.
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