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Federal Lawsuit by Vulcan Society Finds Employment Discrimination is Ongoing Concern at FDNY

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgJudge Nicholas G. Garaufis, a federal district court judge in Brooklyn, ruled this week that an independent monitor must be hired to watch and ensure that the New York Fire Department becomes more diverse in its hiring practices in order to remedy 40 years of employment discrimination that has been taking place against black and Hispanic firefighters. This decision came after 4 years of litigation in which the city and the Fire Department were accused of race discrimination in their hiring practices.

The Vulcan Society, a black fraternal FDNY organization, complained about 10 years ago that the Fire Department gave applicants an exam that was full of SAT like questions which did not test for firefighting skills. Although potential hirees also had to take a physical test, this exam played the biggest part in whether or not a candidate was hired. The lawsuit also charged the FDNY with the existence of an “old boy network” where the FDNY favored hiring friends, relatives, and neighbors over minority applicants who did not have any connections. Thereafter, the Justice Department took over the case.

The Judge’s decision accuses Mayor Bloomberg of willfully ignoring the FDNY’s racial imbalance. The Fire Department has remained 97 percent white for decades although the city’s population is about 25 percent black. In his ruling, the Judge accused the City of “blame-shifting” and “accountability-avoidance” and also wrote that the “city still doesn’t get it.” The Judge wrote that instead of investigating the city’s track record of hiring Black and Hispanic firefighters, the city “dug in and fought back.” According to the Judge’s ruling, a court appointed monitor will be appointed for at least 10 years to assess recruitment, testing and hiring of new firefighters.

Mayor Bloomberg has responded that his administration has done more than any of his predecessors to make the FDNY more diverse. He has stated that the FDNY has recently had a very successful diverse recruitment campaign which resulted in 61,000 applicants, of which half were minorities. Bloomberg also stated that the “judge was not elected to run the city, and you can rest assured that we’ll be in court for a long time.”

The judge basically ruled that the city and Mayor Bloomberg were not capable of ending the discriminatory hiring practices at the FDNY. The court’s decision amounts to major judicial intervention and oversight of this country’s largest fire department. This is an extremely important decision because it shows that courts will intervene and run your city or business if it believes that you can’t correct discriminatory practices on your own.

If you or someone you care about has suffered from any type of discrimination at the workplace, including race, gender, pregnancy, age, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or religion, call our experienced Employment Discrimination Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 to discuss your possible case.

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