Acosta v. City of Memphis, No. 13-5454 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Memphis’s promotional processes have caused controversy for nearly 40 years, prompting numerous lawsuits alleging racial and gender discrimination by such parties including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Afro-American Police Association, and white and minority officers. The city instituted a process in 1996 designed by an industrial and organizational psychologist, and overseen by a Department of Justice consultant and adjusted the process in 2000. After the city discovered that leaked answers compromised the results, it readjusted and ultimately consented to the invalidation of the 2000 process. The city hired outside consultants to design replacement tests that would become the 2002 process. The district court dismissed a negligence claim concerning the already-invalidated 2000 process under Tennessee’s governmental-immunity statute, Tenn. Code 29-20-205; invalidated the 2002 process for violating Title VII’s disparate-impact prohibition, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2(k)(1); and awarded back pay and interest to plaintiffs and more than $1 million in fees and expenses to their attorneys. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the immunity-based dismissal, reversed the Title VII judgment invalidating the 2002 process, vacated the fees award and remanded. The court noted that plaintiffs failed to present evidence establishing a genuine issue of fact regarding the availability of equally valid, less discriminatory alternative testing.