NEW HAVEN (CN) – First it was white firefighters, now it’s a black firefighter suing New Haven over the same promotions exam in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Ricci v. DeStefano, that the city had violated white people’s civil rights. Michael Briscoe, who scored better on the oral portion of the exam than on the written part, objects that the city “chose to weight the written test 60 percent and the oral exam 40 percent.”
Briscoe claims in Federal Court that he was unfairly denied promotion to lieutenant because of the way the city scored its 2003 exam.
Briscoe scored the highest of the 77 lieutenant candidates on the oral exam, but because he did not score well on the written test he was ranked 24th on the eligibility list and will not be eligible for promotion, according to the complaint.
Had the weighting been reversed – 60 percent for the oral exam and 40 percent for the written – Briscoe would be ranked 9th, and would be promoted, he says.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June in Ricci v. DeStefano that New Haven violated 17 white firefighters’ civil rights by ignoring the test results in granting promotions.
Briscoe is suing after topping the field on the oral section of the exam, but not on the written part. He also objects to the long wait for the test results, which the city only recently released.
Briscoe claims that the oral exam is a better way to assess candidates’ skills and has less disparate impact on African-Americans. “Yet the City chose to weight the written test 60 percent and the oral exam 40 percent,” according to his complaint.
“The differences between the written test and the oral exam disadvantaged a candidate, like the plaintiff, who had diligently studied and learned all the material taught during years of on-the-job experience and extensive in-service training, compared to one who did little until the run-up to the exam but then memorized the facts that were included in the assigned written materials,” the lawsuit states.
He wants to be promoted, retroactive pay, and an injunction. He is represented by David Rosen.