The racial discrimination case against New York City's fire department, launched back in 2007 by the George W. Bush administration, has now reached the remedy stage.
Federal District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis determined three years ago that the city had intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants for firefighter jobs by writing the entrance examinations in such a way that those minorities would be less able to answer the questions than white applicants would.
Now come the remedies: scads of money, of course, rigid quotas for future hiring, "retroactive seniority" for minority hires, various other goodies, and the following provision that tweaked my mathematical inclinations:
To further remedy the pain and humiliation suffered by these discriminated-against applicants, the judge has ordered that any black or Hispanic individual who failed either written exam — not both, but either — with a score of 25 out of 100 or higher must be placed on the priority hiring list, and will also receive monetary damages, including, quote, "non-economic damages."
That's from last week's broadcast of Radio Derb, where I ranted at length about Judge Garaufis's ruling. (Radio Derb also goes to iTunes for podcasting.)
As I further ranted:
If you look at the actual exams . . . you'll see that they consist of multiple-choice questions, with four choices per question. Thus if, on either one of the exams, you answered all the questions at random, without even reading them, you would score 25 out of 100 or higher half the time for that exam. If you did it for both exams, since you only have to score 25 or more on one of them, you have a 75 percent chance of eligibility for that priority hiring list and those monetary damages, without having even read a single question!
Yeah, yeah, I know: it's a binomial distribution, and they must be weighting the questions somehow to get a total score of 100 on an 85-question test, so that "half" is approximate.
It's not far out, though, and makes the point. The point being, that in our efforts to remedy imaginary injustices, we have now sunk to the point of rewarding failure and punishing excellence.