Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Preliminary Injunction Vacated as Disparate Impact on African Americans of Hiring Practice Benefits Hispanics

In NAACP v. North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40067 (D.N.J. Apr. 23, 2010), Judge Debevoise vacated a preliminary injunction which he had issued on February 18, 2009 (NAACP v. North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, 255 F.R.D. 374 (D.N.J. 2009)), in this disparate impact challenge to the defendant fire department’s use of residency requirements for hiring. The defendant fire department, which serves several communities in North Hudson County, New Jersey, requires that job applicants reside in the municipalities of Guttenberg, North Bergen, Union City, Weehocken, or West New York. The plaintiffs, African Americans from Hudson, Essex, and Union Counties, who did not reside in any of the member municipalities, argued that the residency requirement had a disparate impact on African American job applicants. The defendant fire department employed two African Americans, 64 Hispanics, 255 whites, and two individuals identified as being of “other” races. The district court, in its preliminary injunction, ordered that the defendant fire department cease hiring candidates from the existing list and only hire from a list expanded to include residents of Hudson, Essex, and Union counties. The fire department had appealed the issuance of the preliminary injunction, which was entered for the benefit of plaintiffs—African American job applicants. On appeal, Hispanic applicants intervened, arguing that the district court’s preliminary injunction disadvantaged them by diluting the likelihood of Hispanics being hired by defendant fire department.

The Third Circuit sua sponte remanded (NAACP v. North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 4213 (3d Cir. Mar. 1, 2010)) the matter in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658 (2009). On remand, the district court found that “striking down the residency requirement might make the NHRFR [defendant fire department] liable for disparate treatment to the Hispanic intervenors . . .” The district court, on remand, concluded that it was “faced with hiring practices that may cause disparate impact to one minority group [African Americans], but that benefit another minority group [Hispanics].” In short, the district court found that while the residency requirements disadvantaged African Americans, Hispanic applicants would be disadvantaged by a change in the residency requirements, and taking into account the traditional preliminary injunction factors, the district court concluded that it should vacate the preliminary injunction that it had issued prior to the Ricci decision.

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