Two black men brought suit against District of Columbia alleging that their applications to be police officers had been rejected.
They claimed that the department's recruiting procedures discriminated on the basis of race against black applicants by a series of practices including a written personnel test.
The test in question, Test 21, was designed to test verbal ability, vocabulary, reading, and comprehension.
The district court held that…
The number of black police officers while substantial is not proportionate to the population of the city
A higher percentage of blacks fail the test than whites
The test has not been validated to establish its reliability for measuring subsequent job performance
District Court held for DC, not unconstitutional.
SCOTUS affirmed, not unconstitutional.
When is a law, which is non-discriminatory on its face, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause?
A non-facially discriminatory law is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause when a discriminatory impact and a discriminatory purpose can be proven.
Our cases have not embraced the proposition that a law is unconstitutional solely because it has a racially disproportionate impact.
A discriminatory purpose may be inferred from the totality of the relevant facts, including the fact that the law bears more heavily on one race than another.
However, a law that is neutral on its face is not invalid simply because it may affect a greater proportion of one race than another.
It is untenable that the Constitution prevents the government from seeking modestly to upgrade the communicative abilities of its employees rather than to be satisfied with some lower level of competence, especially when the job requires special ability to communicate.
Here, the fact that there is a discriminatory impact is not sufficient evidence of discriminatory purpose.
The test is neutral on its face and rationally may be said to serve a purpose the gov't is constitutionally empowered to pursue.
Title VII may adopt an approach which requires the test to correspond to on the job performance, but we are unwilling to adopt such an approach.
Sound policy considerations support the view that the district be required to prove that the tests either measure job-related skills or predicted job performance.