Feds allege Rhode Island discriminates in hiring of prison guards

Feb. 10, 2014 at 10:51 PM
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PROVIDENCE, R.I., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Rhode Island and its Corrections Department Monday, alleging racial discrimination in the hiring of prison guards.

The federal government says Rhode Island has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African-Americans and Hispanics through the use of written and video examinations to screen and select applicants for entry-level corrections officer positions.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island, faults the state for making applicants take both exams on the same day and alleges the exams are used in a way that disproportionately screens out blacks and Latinos

The Justice Department says the Rhode Island Corrections Department's use of the written and video examinations is not "job-related or consistent with business necessity" as required by law, and does not help them identify applicants qualified for entry-level corrections officer positions.

In addition to a court order for Rhode Island to stop using the examinations and develop new procedures that comply with Title VII, the Justice Department seeks to have the state compelled to offer jobs, back pay and retroactive seniority to African-Americans and Hispanics "who have been or will be harmed as a result of the defendants' use of the challenged examinations."

"Bringing an end to practices that have an unjustified discriminatory impact on the basis of race or national origin is a major priority of the Department of Justice," acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said in a release. "Employers must be able to show that examinations like those at issue here, that disproportionately screen out large numbers of African-American and Hispanic applicants, validly distinguish between qualified and unqualified applicants for the job. Otherwise, the examinations will not serve the employer's purposes and will violate the law."

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