Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Title VII Cases, Sometimes It's All About the Numbers. . .

On September 28, 2011, in the case of Meditz v. City of Newark the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the trial court had improperly dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Newark, which alleged that the City's residency requirement for its non-uniformed employees was unlawful under Title VII because it created an employment bias against white, non-Hispanic applicants. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court had failed to properly evaluate and consider the weight of the statistical evidence that had been presented by the plaintiff. In April of 2007, Gregory Meditz, a white male who resided in neighboring Rutherford, New Jersey, applied for a non-uniformed job with the City of Newark. Meditz was turned down for the job because he did not live in the City of Newark, and thus did not qualify for employment under a City Ordinance that required all non-uniformed City personnel to live within the City limits. Meditz sued, claiming that the City's residency requirement for its non-uniformed employees was discriminatory and unlawfully barred him from qualifying for a non-uniformed job with the City. Specifically, Meditz argued that the residency requirement worked a disparate impact on white, non-Hispanic job applicants because the racial make-up of the population of Newark did not reflect the racial make-up of the surrounding labor market. In support of his claims, Meditz produced statistical data that he gathered from publicly available sources, which revealed that in 2007, only 9.4% of the non-uniformed employees of the City of Newark were white, non-Hispanic, while 28.31% of the City's uniformed employees (who are not subject to a residency requirement) were white, non-Hispanics. Meditz also compared the statistics of the racial composition of the City's non-uniformed employees with the racial composition of the non-uniformed employees from the County of Essex, which maintained its County seat within the City of Newark. This comparison showed that 42.96% of the non-uniformed employees who worked for the County were white, non-Hispanics. Meditz also introduced evidence that in 2005, the percentage of white, non-Hispanics that constituted the non-uniformed employees of Essex County and 5 neighboring counties, ranged from 48.09% to 86.49%, with the percentages of white, non-Hispanics employed in the private labor force in those same counties being only slightly lower. The trial court, however, granted the City's motion for summary judgment, and tossed Meditz's lawsuit, concluding that "these statistics, standing alone, do not constitute sufficient evidence of a significantly discriminatory hiring pattern." On appeal, the Third Circuit reversed, finding that the trial court had misapplied the law and had failed to lend the appropriate weight to Meditz's statistical evidence. Specifically, the Court held that "Meditz offered statistical evidence showing that the percentage of white, non-Hispanics employed by Newark was lower than the population of white, non-Hispanics in the general population of Newark. Meditz also offered statistics showing the percentage of white, non-Hispanics in surrounding areas both for the general population and for the private and government work forces. Finally, Meditz offered evidence of the percentage of white, non-Hispanics employed by the Essex County government in Newark. Out of all these percentages, the lowest was the percentage of white, non-Hispanics employed by the City of Newark. This compilation of statistics supported Meditz's claim that white, non-Hispanics were under-represented in Newark's non-uniformed work force." This case provides an excellent illustration of how a disparate impact theory of discrimination under Title VII can be invaluable tool for an individual who believes he or she has been subjected to unlawful discrimination, because in these cases, evidence of discriminatory intent or bias on behalf of the employer is not required. All that a plaintiff needs in order to be successful is to establish a differential employment outcome or treatment that is based upon race, sex, religion, or national origin, which can be proven through statistical analysis and statistical deviations. After all, the numbers don't lie. You can read the Third Circuit's full opinion in Meditz v. City of Newark here: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/102442p.pdf