DOJ says LPD discriminated against Hispanic, female job applicants

Published: Jun. 23, 2015 at 8:28 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 2:26 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has filed a lawsuit against the City of Lubbock, alleging discriminatory hiring practices against women and Hispanic probationary police officers.

The information comes from a letter received on June 22 addressed to Mitchell Satterwhite, the assistant City of Lubbock attorney, written by Vanita Gupta, the principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.

The letter states that after the division examined multiple hiring cycles in the course of their investigation, it determined that the City of Lubbock is engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against Hispanics and women with respect to the hiring of probationary police officers in the Lubbock Police Department; in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.

Gupta writes that since at least 2009, the City has used a multi-step selection procedure for probationary police officers that includes, among other things, a written examination and a physical fitness test.

All applicants are required to take a 65-question, multiple-choice exam that tests mathematics, reading comprehension and grammar.

Applicants who do not pass the writing exam are disqualified from the hiring cycle, while passing applicants are sent immediately to take a physical fitness test.

The physical test includes five different fitness events that applicants must pass to continue through the hiring process.

Based on their investigation, Gupta claims the City's use of written examinations has caused an adverse impact on Hispanic applicants for probationary police officer positions. She lists these statistics: since 2009, 88 percent of white applicants have passed the written exam while only 68 percent of Hispanics have passed.

If there were no disparities in these pass rates, Gupta believes more Hispanics would have been hired by the police department.

The City's use of the physical fitness test has also caused an adverse impact on female applicants for probationary police officer positions, Gupta writes. She lists these statistics: since 2009, 81 percent of male applicants have passed the fitness test while only 31 percent of female applicants passed.

She expects that more women would have been qualified to become probationary police officers if there were no disparities in these pass rates.

Gupta explains that when a local government employer has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act, the Attorney General may apply to the appropriate court for an order that will fix these issues. This duty was delegated to the Gupta, who authorized the filing of suit against the City.

The United States will file this complaint no later than August 3, 2015.

She invites the City to participate in settlement negotiations to resolve this matter without the burdens of contested litigation. She believes the parties can reach an agreement that is consistent with their mutual goals through a consent decree.

Those consent decree measures include:

1. Reducing settlement terms to a publicly-field consent decree to be approved and entered by a federal court and subject to federal court supervision;

2. Taking appropriate action to correct the present effects of the issues identified above, including implementing a written and physical exam that comply with Title VII; and

3. Providing "make whole" relief to Hispanic and female applicants who have/will be harmed by the City's unlawful use of written and physical exams.

Gupta concludes that Hector Ruiz and Karen Ruckert will represent the United States in this matter and are prepared to speak with the City at their earliest convenience.

PDF: Department of Justice letter to City of Lubbock

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