(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Polk County District Court judge today rejected a class-action lawsuit challenging every state executive branch hiring decision since July of 2003. The plaintiffs claimed that the state allowed what they called “implicit” or “subconscious” bias to permeate the hiring process, resulting in systemic discrimination against African-Americans in the executive branch employment process.
Polk County District Court Judge Robert J. Blink found that the Plaintiffs’ “unique legal theory” of liability was not supported by legal precedent and that the evidence did not prove that the State’s employment practices caused an unlawful disparate impact upon African Americans.
Attorney General Tom Miller expresses his gratitude for the thorough decision that Miller said accurately represented the court record and trial. “We appreciate Judge Blink’s hard work on this very difficult case,” said Miller. “This thoughtful decision is based on the law and on the facts of the case.”
The plaintiffs’ sweeping system-wide claim challenged every hiring or promotion decision made at every one of 37 different state agencies during the class period—millions of discrete decisions by thousands of different managers.
“The core of this case involved Iowa agencies deciding which applicants to interview based on submitted applications,” Miller said. “In some cases, these agencies received hundreds of applications. Applicants did not indicate their race. In most cases, those in state government who were making hiring decisions were making those decisions throughout the process without knowing the race of the applicant.”
At issue in this case were employment decisions relating to nearly 500,000 applications, submitted by nearly 100,000 applicants, for more than 20,000 merit system jobs. These jobs fit into a complex mosaic of job (700) and pay (24) classifications and most—nearly 85%—were covered by collective bargaining agreements.
“The plaintiffs had an expert who testified that even if the agencies didn’t know the race of the applicants, that somehow in a subconscious way they did know and discriminated against African Americans,” Miller said. “Judge Blink has rejected this claim as clearly as he should have.”
Miller also expressed his appreciation to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Thompson, and Assistant Attorneys General Tyler Smith and Julia Kim, for their outstanding legal work throughout this case.
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