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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Larry Bridges and Joyce Riley, both African Americans, were members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and worked at Mississippi Power & Light Co. Acknowledging that it would have to lay off employees, MP&L and the union reached a collective bargaining agreement that permitted laid-off employees with a certain measure of seniority to “bump” into positions held by more junior employees. To do so, however, the senior employee had to be qualified for the position by passing a Clerical Aptitude Battery. From 1984 to 1989, the cutoff score to allow elevation to a storekeeper position was 178; from 1989 to 1993, the cutoff score was lowered to 150; and from 1993 onward, the cutoff score was raised to 180, which MP&L said was to create uniformity with its other divisions. The cutoff score was set at 180 when Bridges and Riley took the test to move up to storekeeper positions. Both fell short and were not allowed to “bump” into the positions. Bridges, Riley and the union sued MP&L, alleging that the power company had engaged in employment practices that had a racially disparate impact. The district court rendered judgment for the plaintiffs, directed MP&L to amend its employment practices, awarded Bridges and Riley lost wages and ordered MP&L to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. Reviewing U.S. Supreme Court cases involving disparate impact, the court concludes that the burden of demonstrating whether there were acceptable alternatives to the allegedly discriminatory business practices rests with the plaintiffs. Then, reviewing the district court’s judgment, the court finds that the district court erred in placing the burden on MP&L, and that the error affected the district court’s ultimate conclusions. That is, the district court apparently would have been persuaded that MP&L had “most adequately” provided an acceptable business justification for its business practices. The court concludes that MP&L showed that increasing the CAB cutoff score to 180 from 150 significantly increases the likelihood that successful applicants for the positions in question will develop into proficient employees. MP&L can and has pointed to specific and sizable savings estimates related to its challenged practices. On the other hand, the plaintiffs did not respond by showing what an acceptable alternative business practice might be. The court notes only two instances in 250 pages of testimony in which the plaintiffs’ expert mentioned any kind of alternative, but also acknowledged that the alternative would involve answers to written or oral questions. OPINION:King, J.; King, Barksdale and Clement, JJ.

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