The New Jersey Civil Service Commission has settled a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning its promotion practices for police sergeants.
The DOJ alleged the state’s method of scoring and using written examinations had a disparate impact on black and Hispanic officers in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The feds also contended the tests did not actually measure the applicant’s ability to perform the job.
The Civil Service Commission conducts promotion tests for many New Jersey municipal police forces. The sergeant’s exam was a pass/fail test, but the police departments used scores to determine the order in which the applicant’s were hired. Generally, higher-scoring applicants were promoted first.
The DOJ alleged that because the tests did not measure how well-qualified applicants were, they should not have been used to determine which applicants to promote first.
Under the settlement, the state will pay $1 million into a fund that will go to black and Hispanic officers who were adversely affected by the exams. The Civil Service Commission must also develop a new sergeants’ exam system that complies with Title VII.
Note: Any employment test must be job-related and of business necessity to pass muster. In fact, employment tests that measure anything other than the applicant’s ability to perform the job are not only a waste of time, but a potential source of liability.