Sometimes, the HR business makes for strange bedfellows. Consider what happened in one recent case when the U.S. Department of Justice sued the city of Dayton, claiming its rules for hiring police officers and firefighters unfairly screened out black candidates.
Before the city was strong-armed into accepting a settlement that might have resulted in a reverse-discrimination lawsuit by current employees, the police and firefighters union stepped in to intervene in the litigation.
Recent case: Dayton hired police candidates based on a written exam. It hired only firefighters who already had earned certifications as firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) sued, alleging that both hiring practices had a disparate impact on otherwise qualified black candidates. The DOJ claimed the requirements were neither job related nor consistent with business necessity. It urged the court to make the city develop new hiring standards.
The court agreed. The proposed agreement also would have given retroactive seniority and retirement credits to four police officers who had not been hired.
The union believed that provision would have been fundamentally unfair to the police officers who were already on the job. It asked the court for permission to participate in the final hearings on whether the case should be settled under the terms the court had suggested.
The court allowed the union to intervene. With any luck, the parties will now reach an agreement that is fair to all parties and won’t mean additional lawsuits later. (United States of America v. City of Dayton, No. 3:08-CV-348, SD OH, 2009)
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