Explanation Of Relief

What claims did the United States bring against the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Civil Service Commission?

In January 2010, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The United States alleged that since 2000, the State has discriminated against African Americans and Hispanics in the promotion of police sergeants in local jurisdictions participating in New Jersey’s civil service system.

Specifically, the United States alleged that the State’s use of a written exam on a pass/fail basis and the State’s use of candidate scores on the written exam to certify candidates in descending rank order violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, bars discrimination in promotions on the basis of race or national origin. A facially neutral employment practice, such as a written exam, violates Title VII when it disproportionately excludes people from employment opportunities on the basis of their membership in a protected group, such as a particular race or national origin, and cannot be shown to be related to job performance.

The United States determined that both of the State’s practices had an unlawful disparate impact on African Americans and Hispanics. In other words, these employment practices screened out otherwise qualified African-American and Hispanic candidates at a significantly higher rate than white candidates without being justified as job-related and consistent with business necessity, as is required under Title VII. Thus, the State’s uses of the written exam could not determine which candidates were better qualified for promotion to police sergeant.

What kinds of relief are available under the Consent Decree?

 

The Consent Decree provides for two types of relief to remedy the harm caused by the employment practices challenged by the United States. First, the State will develop and administer a new, lawful selection procedure that complies with Title VII to select candidates for promotion to police sergeant throughout the State in local jurisdictions participating in New Jersey’s civil service system. Development of a new selection procedure will ensure that promotions to police sergeant are based on merit and that the State does not unnecessarily exclude qualified candidates for promotion to police sergeant.

Second, the State will provide individual relief to persons defined as Claimants in the Decree, as appropriate, through back pay and/or priority promotions to qualified persons.

Who is eligible for back pay relief?

The State has agreed to provide $1,000,000 in back pay relief, which will be divided among the African-American and Hispanic Claimants.

“Claimant,” as defined in the decree, refers to any African-American or Hispanic candidate from a specified jurisdiction who has not been promoted to police sergeant and who:

(1) between 2000 and 2009, failed a police sergeant written exam where appointments from the eligible list resulted in fewer than expected promotions of candidates of that candidate’s race, or

(2) between 2000 and 2008, passed a police sergeant written exam where appointments from the eligible list resulted in fewer than expected promotions of candidates of that candidate’s race but ranked below the lowest-ranking candidate appointed from that eligible list.

To determine whether you are a Claimant, and potentially eligible for back pay, please refer to Attachment A. This attachment lists the jurisdictions, years, and eligible lists from which fewer promotions of African-American and Hispanic candidates resulted than expected. If you have not been promoted, took the challenged exam in a jurisdiction and year listed in Attachment A, and are of the “race of candidates eligible for relief” listed in Attachment A for that jurisdiction and year, you may be a Claimant and may be eligible for back pay relief. Attachment B provides a list of Claimants who the United States has determined are potentially eligible for back pay based on this criteria. Regardless of whether your name appears on Attachment B, if you believe you are eligible for back pay, you must return to the United States a timely “Interest in Back Pay Form” to be considered for monetary relief. This process is outlined in Attachment H.

Monetary relief will be allocated among all Claimants based upon the number of years of back pay each Claimant is eligible to receive. Claimants determined to be eligible for monetary relief will receive awards that do not exceed the amount of money they would have received had they been promoted based upon the challenged exam that they took - that is, the amount that they lost as a result of the discrimination.

The Court will make all final determinations as to which individuals will obtain back pay and the allocation of back pay among Claimants.

Who is eligible for priority promotions?

Candidates who meet the definition of “Claimant” and took a challenged exam in one of the jurisdictions listed inAttachment K are eligible for both monetary relief/back pay and for priority promotions. With respect to priority promotions, the State has agreed that 68 priority promotions will be made to 48 African-American and 20 Hispanic Claimants from the 13 local jurisdictions identified in Attachment K. Claimants eligible for a priority promotion must first pass the new, lawful selection procedure developed by the State under the decree, thereby ensuring that they are fully qualified to perform as police sergeants. Any Claimant who earns a priority promotion will be entitled to limited retroactive seniority for purposes of receiving seniority credits for future promotional opportunities, if applicable. The decree does not require the State to appoint anyone who is not qualified to be a police sergeant and requires the State to develop a selection procedure that promotes qualified candidates to the position of police sergeant.

Attachment C provides a list of Claimants who the United States has determined are potentially eligible for both back pay and priority promotions. Regardless of whether your name appears on Attachment C, if you believe you are eligible for a priority promotion, you must return to the United States a timely “Interest in Back Pay and/or Priority Promotion Form” to be considered for a priority promotion. This process is outlined in Attachment H.

The Court will make all final determinations as to which individuals are entitled to priority promotions.

What do I do if I believe I may be eligible for relief?

If you are an African-American or Hispanic police officer and you took a police sergeant written exam administered by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission between 2000 and 2009 and believe that you may be a Claimant based on the explanation of “Who is eligible for back pay relief” and “Who is eligible for priority promotions” outlined above, please leave the Department of Justice your updated contact information at 1-800-556-1950, Option No. 1.

Can the State continue to certify candidates from existing eligible lists?

The State may continue to certify candidates from existing eligible lists in all jurisdictions except when a requested certification in a jurisdiction listed in Attachment D will result in an additional African-American or Hispanic victim of the State’s uses of the challenged exam. For additional information on how the United States makes this determination, please click here and see Exhibit 2, paragraphs 13 and 14.

What if I have additional questions?

Call the Department of Justice at 1-800-556-1950, select option number 1, and leave a message.

Updated July 29, 2015