Appeal from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Daly, J ., dismissing plaintiffs' suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-(17) (1976), for failure to establish a prima facie case. Reversed and remanded.
Before Timbers and Meskill, Circuit Judges, and Gagliardi, District Judge.*fn*
This is an appeal from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Daly, J., dismissing appellants' action instituted under § 703(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (1976),*fn1 for failure to make out a prima facie case of race discrimination.*fn2 This appeal raises the question whether a plaintiff in a Title VII action may make a prima facie showing of discriminatory impact based upon the disparate results produced by one portion of an employee selection process, where the overall results of the selection process concededly reveal no such imbalance. For the reasons stated below, we hold that where a plaintiff establishes that a component of a selection process produced disparate results and constituted a pass-fail barrier beyond which the complaining candidates were not permitted to proceed, a prima facie case of disparate impact is established, notwithstanding that the entire selection procedure did not yield disparate results.
The plaintiffs, Winnie Teal, Rose Walker, Edith Latney, and Gracie Clack,*fn3 are black American citizens employed by the State of Connecticut, Department of Income Maintenance. All four plaintiffs were promoted provisionally to the position of Welfare Eligibility Supervisor and served in that capacity for periods in excess of two years. Several of the plaintiffs' superiors testified at trial that the plaintiffs possessed the qualifications for permanent positions as supervisors and praised their performance on the job.
To attain permanent status as supervisors, plaintiffs had to participate in a selection process which requires, as the first step, a passing score on a written examination. Those candidates who pass the written examination form an eligibility pool from which the appointing authority selects persons to fill the permanent positions. In making the final determinations the appointing authority considers the past work performance of the candidates, recommendations of the candidates' supervisors, and to a lesser degree, the candidates' seniority. Additionally, in this final step of the process, the defendants employ an affirmative action program to insure a large representation of minority candidates on the supervisory level. However, only if a candidate passes the written examination and enters the eligibility pool will he be exposed to the rest of the selection process and thus benefit from the consideration of these other factors.
The written test was administered on December 2, 1978 to 329 candidates. The mean score on the examination was 70.4 percent. However, because the black candidates had a mean score 6.7 percentage points lower than the white candidates, a disparity that the defendants admitted was statistically significant, and because a cutoff score of 70 would have resulted in a disproportionately large number of black candidates failing the exam, the defendants set the passing score at 65.*fn4 With the passing score set at 65, the following results were obtained:
Candidate No. Receiving Ratio
Group Number Passing Score (%)