Court Rules NYC Fire Department Uses Discriminatory Hiring Practices

The Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled Wednesday that the New York City Fire Department uses discriminatory hiring practices against black and Hispanic applicants. According to the New York Times, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis wrote in his decision that required examinations completed by applicants “unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color from the opportunity to serve as New York City firefighters.” The test, he ruled, does not test skills required to be a good firefighter.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the suit on behalf of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal order of black firefighters, and three individual applicants. The lawsuit followed two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints filed in 2002 and 2005 charging the fire department with discriminatory hiring practices. Only 7.4 percent of New York City firefighters are Black or Latino, which means the city has the least diverse fire department of any major city in the US.

Dana Lossia, a lawyer for the Vulcan Society told the New York Times, “I think this has the potential to very quickly change the demographics of the Fire Department, which has been something that’s been a long time coming,” The Bloomberg administration faces more litigation to decide if the discrimination was intentional and will potentially have to pay millions in salary reparations.

Ricci v. DeStefano (see PDF), a similar case that originated in New Haven, CT, is a Title VII race case that has far reaching impact on race, sex, and ethnicity employment cases. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the invalidation of promotion exam results was unconstitutional and that the tests were valid, despite the fact that no African-Americans ranked high enough to be promoted and the absolute adverse racial impact put in question its validity and indicated potential racial bias.


New York Times 7/22/09; Feminist News Wire 6/30/09; Center for Constitutional Rights 7/22/09

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