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Ruling has big impact for employers

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor

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A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court today could affect employment practices nationwide. The high court decided in favor of a group of white firefighters who say they were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. Here's Marketplace's Sam Eaton.


SAM EATON: The ruling reverses a decision Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals judge -- ensuring the case will be front and center at her Senate confirmation hearing next month.

But aside from the political fallout, the case also carries big ramifications for employers. The high court ruled that New Haven, Conn., was wrong to throw out a written promotion exam after no black applicants passed it.

Gary Chaison is a labor relations professor at Clark University. He says the case clearly establishes the law on reverse discrimination.

GARY CHAISON: When you don't like the results of a test it doesn't mean you can throw it out because not only are you helping some of the people who did poorly. But you're also hurting the people who did well on that test.

Chaison says promotion tests are commonly used as a way to foster diversity in the workplace. But he says today's ruling means employers will have to be much more careful in how they craft those policies.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.

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