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Discrimination in the Workplace Essay

In Ricci v. DeStefano, the U.S. Supreme Court made a contentious ruling on workplace racial discriminate practices. In the case, eighteen firefighters from New Haven’s fire department had sued their employer for engaging in discriminatory practices. Seventeen of the firefighters were Caucasian while one firefighter was Hispanic. The officials of the fire department refused to promote the fire fighters.

This is despite the fact that they had passed promotion tests. The officials refused to promote the employees since none of the black firefighters had passed the promotion tests with marks that warranted promotion (Fitter & Gulas, 2002). Therefore, they invalidated all the results of the test.

This was a racially discriminatory practice since it denied the employees promotions on racially-motivated grounds. The actions of the fire department officials contravened Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the major American legislation that protects people from being victims of discrimination. The legislation prohibits employers from engaging in racial discrimination or discriminating employees due to their interracial associations.

However, the legislation permits discrimination under special circumstances. Employers have the right to discriminate to safeguard a trait that is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). The trait should be reasonably vital in the normal operations of the organization. However, employers must be able to prove that the trait is a BFOQ. They must prove the three elements of a BFOQ exist in the trait.

The employer must prove that there is a direct relationship between the trait and the capability of performing various tasks within the organization. The employer must also prove that the BFOQ relates to the ‘essence’ or main objective of the organization. Finally, the employer must prove that no reasonable options are less-restrictive.

In Ricci v. DeStefano, the defendant strived to prove that promoting black employees was vital to the activities of the fire department. However, the fire department did not promote any employee since no black employees obtained promotion test marks that warranted promotion (Fitter & Gulas, 2002). The New Haven Civil Service Board (CSB) is the agency that endorsed the results of the results of the promotion tests.

It held several hearings to determine whether to endorse the results. Several parties supported the endorsement of the results. They stated that the tests used nationally recognized books in formulating the questions. Therefore, it was wrong for the department to refuse to endorse the test results.

However, the CSB did not endorse the results of the test. This forced Ricci, one of the employees who had passed the test, to sue the city mayor, John DeStefano, Jr. However, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant (Fitter & Gulas, 2002).

It was the duty of the defendant to prove that being black is a BFOQ. Therefore, it was vital for the department to promote black employees. From the case, it is clear that promoting black employees did not relate to the ‘essence’ or main activity of the fire department. Failure to promote black employees would not have hindered the ability of the department to provide its services efficiently.

Therefore, the court erred in its decision to rule in favor of the defendant. It is clear that the department violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If I had the opportunity to be a judge in the case, I would have ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

In Sutton et al. v. United Airlines, the plaintiffs, Karen Sutton and Kimberley Hilton, sued United Airlines for refusing to employ them since their uncorrected vision did not meet the standards that the airline required (Kennedy & Schultz, 2011).

Acute visual myopia restricted the ability of the two identical twins to see clearly. However, they could correct their vision using glasses. This enabled them to perform their daily activities normally. Sutton quoted the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in suing American Airlines. However, the judge ruled in favor of the defendant.

Determining the legal definition of persons with disability was vital in arriving at the final ruling. According to ADA, persons with disabilities are people who have physical impairments that limit their abilities to perform major life activities (Walsh, 2006). The court ruled that the defendants’ physical impairments did not limit their ability to perform major life activities.

Corrections enabled the defendants to perform major life activities. In arriving at the ruling, the court emphasized the definition of ‘physical impairments’ that limited the ability of an individual to perform major life activities. The court determined that acute visual myopia is not a disability (Kennedy & Schultz, 2011). Therefore, the plaintiffs were not disabled persons.

Work is one of the major life activity of an individual. Therefore, no party should use disability to deny an individual the right to work.

The court determined that the acute visual myopia did not hinder the ability of the defendants to work in other areas. The plaintiffs could still work in other areas. Therefore, the ruling of the court was not discriminatory. If I had the opportunity to be a judge in the case, I would have ruled in favor of the defendant.


Fitter, F. & Gulas, B. (2002). Working in the dark: Keeping your job while dealing with depression. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing

Kennedy, S. & Schultz, D. (2011). American public service: Constitutional and ethical foundations. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Walsh, D.J. (2006). Employment law for human resource practice. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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Q., Gerardo. 2019. "Discrimination in the Workplace." IvyPanda (blog), July 5, 2019.


Q., G. (2019) 'Discrimination in the Workplace'. IvyPanda, 5 July.

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