Paying The Price For Prejudice! NYC To Pay $98 Million Settlement For Fire Department Racial Bias Suit

March 19, 2014  |  

The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) is in hot water for keeping Latino and African-American candidates at bay with biased testing material for the entrance exams. NYC agreed to pay $98 million in back pay and benefits to minority firefighters who were thwarted by FDNY’s questionable hiring process, CNN reports.

A group of black firefighters claimed that the FDNY entrance exams didn’t screen its applicants for competency in fighting fires. Instead, the test seemed to focus on the candidate’s cognitive and reading skills. The suit also alleges that whites were swiftly guided through the process due to family or neighborhood contacts — a connection many minorities don’t have. “Whites consistently passed while minority candidates failed,” CNN added.

The Justice Department cornered the city with a lawsuit in May 2007 for administering tests that did not properly evaluate their applicants. At that point in time, the FDNY was the least diverse department of any major city in America — only 7.4 percent were minorities. Compare this to Philadelphia’s 51 percent and Boston’s 41 percent.

A US District Judge demanded that NYC pay $128 million and hire nearly 300 Hispanic and Black recruits — only if they pass all the exams within the hiring process.

The litigation dragged on, however, because the city appealed the case last spring. NYC didn’t argue that the tests were discriminatory, but they did claim that the biased examinations weren’t intentional. Due to questions about  Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis’ impartiality, a new judge was assigned to the case. Luckily, “the court left in place many of the remedies ordered by Judge Garaufis,” The New York Times reports.

The biased exams that were administered since 1999 are history! By Sept. of 2012, the District court approved a new, non-discriminatory firefighter exam. In response to Garaufis’ ruling, FDNY welcomed its first wave of minority recruits in July 2013. “This class, which graduated in December 2013, was the most racially diverse class in the history of the FDNY,” adds.

Former Mayor Bloomberg wanted to continue fighting the suit, but newly-elected Mayor Bill de Blasio has put up the white flag. The city agreed to pay $98 million — plus $6 million in health benefits — to former candidates who filed claims of discrimination.

“This administration is fully committed to promoting diversity and equal access in every sector across our five boroughs, and this settlement will move New York City one step closer to this goal,” de Blasio wrote in a statement

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