The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a final settlement with the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, to resolve the department’s claim that the city violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against female applicants for entry-level police officer positions.
The Justice Department’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleges that Corpus Christi’s use of a physical abilities test between 2005 and 2011 violated Title VII because it unlawfully screened out female applicants for entry-level positions with the police department without the required evidence showing that the test did not properly evaluate whether a candidate was in fact qualified for a police officer position. 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.
The Justice Department and the city of Corpus Christi initially entered a settlement and requested the court to approve a consent decree in September 2012. Prior to final entry of the decree by the district court, the Corpus Christi Police Officers’ Association, a union representing most of the city’s police officers, intervened as a party in the lawsuit. This settlement is the culmination of negotiations between all three parties and has resulted in a joint motion by all parties for entry of an amended consent decree. The proposed amended consent decree must be approved by the court; upon its approval, all issues raised by the Justice Department’s complaint against the city of Corpus Christi, and the union’s claims, will be resolved.
“The Department of Justice is committed to eliminating artificial barriers that keep qualified women out of public safety work,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The department commends Corpus Christi for working to adopt new hiring procedures that comply with Title VII and to provide relief to those who were harmed by the city’s previous hiring practices.”
The amended proposed consent decree requires Corpus Christi to replace the physical abilities test challenged by the United States with a new selection procedure that complies with Title VII. Additionally, the amended proposed consent decree requires the city to pay $700,000 as back pay to eligible female applicants who took and failed the challenged physical abilities test between 2005 and 2011. Also under the decree, some women who took and failed the challenged physical abilities test between 2005 and 2011, but who are qualified to perform as police officers, 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 they must meet other qualifications required of all applicants considered for entry-level police officer positions with the city.
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.