Friday, January 6, 2012

Too Smart to Hire? - COTW #73

Ordinarily, I try to pick new cases for the employment law Case of the Week. But, as the old saying (or advertising slogan) goes... if you haven't seen it yet, it's new to you. Thus the Case of the Week is Jordan v. City of New London, 225 F.3d 645 (2d Cir. 2000).

Robert Jordan, then 46, applied to be a police officer with New London. He was told that he "didn't fit the profile" and suspected age discrimination. Nope. In fact:
The city responded that it removed Jordan from consideration because he scored a 33 on the WPT (Wonderlic Personnel Test and Scholastic Level Exam), and that to prevent frequent job turnover caused by hiring overqualified applicants the city only interviewed candidates who scored between 20 and 27.
In short, Jordan was rejected because he was too smart!

Jordan filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city had violated his fourteenth amendment equal protection rights. The Second Circuit rejected his claim, concluding that:
[E]ven absent a strong proven statistical correlation between high scores on the Wonderlic test and turnover resulting from lack of job satisfaction, it is enough that the city believed-on the basis of material prepared by the test maker and a letter along similar lines sent by the LEC-that there was such a connection.
Welcome to "rational basis" review, Mr. Jordan! No evidence that the policy is actually "rational" required (heck, cases have even held that the rationale doesn't even need to be the actual "basis"). Thus, the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the city.

Sidenote: New London is also the city that took Susette Kelo's home for the "public use" of building a private conference center (which was never actually built, if I recall). The Supreme Court infamously allowed the taking in Kelo v. New London. Yes folks, "rational basis" need not be "rational" or the "basis" - and "public use" can mean "private conference center." The law is funny sometimes.

HT: Discover Magazine - Too Smart to be a Good Cop.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.