[IPAC-List] Ricci v. DeStefano

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Thu Apr 9 15:25:06 EDT 2009

There is a certain tyranny and distraction that percentages impose in these situations, that tends to get lost in the shuffle.

The central practical problem seems to be that the positions to be filled are so few in number, that one is hard-pressed to use the test in question and expect positions to be filled by a "desirable" percentage of minority candidates at any time in the near future. It would undoubtedly happen *eventually*, because adverse impact is only a construct pertaining to *probability*. But waiting 10 years for it to happen is not what many would view as social progress, or clear evidence of a sincere desire to foster that progress.

Does abandonment of the test necessarily disqualify the 12 "white" and 1 Hispanic candidates? I don't know. Does it alter their likelihood of being successful again should the initial test be replaced with something deemed valid, but with less adverse impact? Possibly, and Paul makes the excellent and cogent point that the city could conceivably adopt another test that looks good and find themselves in the exact same pickle with the exact same people. Keep in mind that the assumed adverse impact of whatever other test they choose may well be based on data from many more candidates than they would ever hope to hire. In small quantities, in top-down systems, a point here or there on a test can have eye-catching impact on the percentages that management gets to trot around....or feel obliged to keep from public scrutiny.

Adverse impact is an eminently sensible construct, IMHO, but when you get down to small numbers in terms of head-count, percentages can up and down pretty quickly. I often have to disseminate survey data to organizations and organizational units of varying size, and management are too often quick to run with the percentages and ignore the actual number of "heads" those percentages come from. "Ohmygod, we're 11% worse than the corporate average!". Yes, and if 3.7 people in your unit had changed their opinion only slightly, that difference you make so much of would never even exist.

Mark Hammer

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