Federal judge orders New York City to pay minority firefighters $128 million

[JURIST] A federal judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] ruled [memorandum and order, PDF] Thursday that New York City may be liable for up to $128 million in backpay to minorities who took the New York Fire Department (NYFD) [official website] firefighter exam but were never hired. The award may ultimately be split among any minority applicants who took the screening test in 1999 or 2002 and were not accepted for a position immediately after being put on an eligibility list. Some firefighters, who were eventually hired from that list, may also be compensated, with the pay they did receive being factored out of their award. In the January 2010 ruling [JURIST report] pre-dating the award judgment, Judge Nicholas Garaufis "concluded that the undisputed statistical evidence Plaintiffs put forward showed that black and Hispanic candidates disproportionately failed Written Exams 7029 and 2043, were ranked disproportionately lower on the eligibility lists the exams created, and that the standard deviation analysis offered showed a very small likelihood that any of the disparities occurred by chance." The Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented black fraternal firefighter organization the Vulcan Society [advocacy websites] in the suit, praised the ruling [press release], stating that they are, "gratified that this case has finally forced the Fire Department and the City to reckon with the NYFD's decades-long legacy of discrimination and that it sends a strong message that access to the City's best jobs must be open to all." The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website], a party to the suit, also accused the NYFD of using discriminatory screening exams and was influential in the award ruling. The DOJ estimates that up to 2,200 applicants may be eligible for compensation.

In August, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] reinstated [JURIST report] a lawsuit filed by an African-American firefighter claiming the firefighter promotion exams used in the city of New Haven, Connecticut, are discriminatory. In 2003, the New Haven Civil Service Board (CSB) had refused to certify the results of the exam that made disproportionately more white applicants than minority applicants eligible for promotion. Applicants who qualified for promotions based on their test scores but were denied promotions filed a lawsuit against the city claiming disparate impact.

 

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