The Department of Justice announced today that it has entered into a settlement to resolve the department’s allegations that the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against women when hiring entry-level police officers.
The United States’ complaint against Corpus Christi, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleges that between 2005 and 2011, the city used a physical abilities test when hiring entry-level police officers, and that test screened out many more women than men but did not test for what is required on the job. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion, whether the discrimination is intentional or involves the use of employment practices, like physical abilities tests, that have a disparate impact and are not job related and consistent with business necessity.
“Hiring processes, including for those who seek to serve and protect the public as police officers, should be free from discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “ The department commends Corpus Christi for its cooperation, for working to put in place new hiring procedures that comply with Title VII, and for providing relief to the women who have been harmed by the prior practices challenged by the department.”
The Justice Department and Corpus Christi jointly filed a motion today requesting that the court provisionally enter a consent decree that lays out the terms of the settlement. The motion also asks the court to schedule a fairness hearing on the decree, the opportunity provided by Title VII for the public to comment on the decree. The proposed consent decree must be approved by the court.
The consent decree requires that Corpus Christi no longer use the physical abilities test challenged by the United States for selecting entry-level police officers. It also requires the city to develop a new selection procedure that complies with Title VII. Additionally, the consent decree requires the city to pay $700,000 as backpay to female applicants who took and failed the challenged physical abilities test between 2005 and 2011 and are determined to be eligible for relief. Also under the consent decree, some women who took and failed the challenged physical abilities test between 2005 and 2011 may receive offers of priority employment with retroactive seniority and benefits. Applicants interested in priority employment must pass the new, lawful selection procedure developed by Corpus Christi under the decree and meet other qualifications required of all applicants considered for entry-level police officer positions.
“The physical abilities test formerly used by Corpus Christi prevented the city from distinguishing between qualified and unqualified applicants,” continued Mr. Perez. “Here, the Justice Department is ensuring the selection of qualified officers while eliminating artificial, discriminatory barriers. Because Corpus Christi will develop a new, lawful test that all candidates must pass, the public will be assured that the selection process is fair and nondiscriminatory and selects qualified candidates.”
Enforcement of federal employment discrimination laws is a top priority for the Justice Department. Additional information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at www.justice.gov/crt .