United States of America and Vulcan Society, Inc. v. City of New York

At a Glance

Current Status 

On March 18, 2014 the Vulcan Society, CCR, and Levy Ratner announced a settlement with the City to resolve the intentional discrimination claim and to simplify and expedite the monetary relief to victims of discrimination.

Date Filed: 

April 9, 2002

Co-Counsel 

Levy Ratner, P.C., Scott + Scott LLP

Client 

The Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of Black firefighters, along with individual firefighters and firefighter applicants Roger Gregg, Marcus Haywood, Jamel Nicholson, Candido Nunez, Kevin Simpkins, Kevin Walker, and Rusebell Wilson

Case Description 

United States and Vulcan Society v. City of New York is a class action lawsuit that charges the New York City Fire Department with racially discriminatory hiring practices that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Constitution, the New York State Constitution, and New York State and City human rights law. The case focuses on the discriminatory impact of written exams used by the FDNY to screen applicants as well as the discriminatory hiring process following the tests. For decades, despite consistent complaints not only from the Vulcan Society but also from internal administrators, the City used a written exam that had never been validated to measure the skills necessary to be a good firefighter. The case is part of CCR's long history of fighting for racial justice.

In 2012, after a historic decision finding the City liable for racial discrimination under Title VII and State and City human rights law, the court mandated the creation of a new exam, imposed broad-ranging injunctive relief, and appointed a court monitor to oversee recruitment, hiring, and equal employment opportunity. In spring of 2014, the parties entered into a settlement on the constitutional claims of intentional discrimination that awarded $98 million for Black and Latino victims of discrimination, imposed new recruitment goals for the FDNY, enhanced education opportunities for firefighter applicants, and created the position of Chief Diversity Officer to ensure equal opportunity within the department.

When CCR filed the first EEOC charge in 2002, New York City’s fire department was 2.9 percent Black, in a city where 27 percent of the residents are Black. New York City also had the least diverse fire department of any major city in America – only 7.4 percent Black and Latino. At the time, 57 percent of Los Angeles’ firefighters, 51 percent of Philadelphia’s, and 40 percent of Boston’s were people of color. The fire departments were 30 percent Black in Baltimore and 23 percent Black in Chicago. After the case was settled in 2014, with a new, fairer exam and oversight of the firefighter appointment process, the FDNY appointed the most diverse class in its history, with 17 percent Black firefighters and 24 percent Latino firefighters. With the other remedies from the case taking effect, New York City may finally have a fire department that looks like the city it serves.

Case Timeline

June 5, 2015
Court approves settlement of intentional discrimination claims
June 5, 2015
Court approves settlement of intentional discrimination claims
Court approves settlement that includes improved recruitment goals, the initiation of a cadet program, the creation of a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Diversity Advocate, and other reforms.
March 11, 2015
Court approves monetary relief settlement
March 11, 2015
Court approves monetary relief settlement

Court approves $98 million settlement for Black and Latino claimants who were victims of discrimination.

October 1, 2014

Court holds fairness hearing

October 1, 2014

Court holds fairness hearing

The court holds a fairness hearing to hear objections to the proposed settlement of the monetary relief and intentional discrimination claims. On February 20, 2015, the court holds a supplemental fairness hearing to hear objections to the proposed settlement of intentional discrimination claims.

April 22, 2014
Order proposed on settlement
April 22, 2014
Order proposed on settlement
March 18, 2014
Vulcan Society announces settlement with City on intentional discrimination
March 18, 2014
Vulcan Society announces settlement with City on intentional discrimination
The Vulcan Society, CCR, and Levy Ratner announce a settlement on the intentional discrimination and monetary relief portion of the case.
August 30, 2013
Court awards more than $3.5 million in fees
August 30, 2013
Court awards more than $3.5 million in fees
The court awards more than $3.5 million in legal fees to Vulcan Society counsel.
July 2013
First group of firefighters hired from new exam start at FDNY Fire Academy
July 2013
First group of firefighters hired from new exam start at FDNY Fire Academy
This class, which graduates in December 2013, is the most racially diverse class in the history of the FDNY.
May 14, 2013
Second Circuit upholds virtually all injunctive relief, remands intentional discrimination claim for trial
May 14, 2013
Second Circuit upholds virtually all injunctive relief, remands intentional discrimination claim for trial
The Second Circuit upholds virtually all injuctinve relief ordered by the lower court, but overturns the summary judgement decision finding intentional discrimination and remands that issue for trial before different district judge.
September 28, 2012
District Court issues order approving new exam
September 28, 2012
District Court issues order approving new exam
September 2012
District Court approves new firefighter exam
September 2012
District Court approves new firefighter exam
The new exam is designed by all of the parties' experts and under the supervision of Special Master Mary Jo White.
June 26, 2012

Second Circuit hears oral argument

June 26, 2012

Second Circuit hears oral argument

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral argument on the City's appeal of the District Court's intentional discrimination finding and its October 4, 2011 injunctive relief decision.
May 31, 2012
Vulcan Society files reply to City’s opposition to cross appeal
May 31, 2012
Vulcan Society files reply to City’s opposition to cross appeal
March 8, 2012
Court orders $128.6 million in back pay
March 8, 2012
Court orders $128.6 million in back pay
The District Court orders back pay for the thousands of Black and Hispanic firefighter applicants who were either not hired or hired years late because of the City's discriminatory 1999 and 2002 firefighter exams.
December 8, 2011
City appeals intentional discrimination ruling and part of injunctive relief ordered by court
December 8, 2011
City appeals intentional discrimination ruling and part of injunctive relief ordered by court

Acknowleding that it had used a test that had never been validated, the City does not appeal the court's ordering of the development of a new exam or monetary relief for the victims of discrimination. However, the City appeals to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on the intentional discrimination ruling and the orders for injunctive relief other than fixing the exam.

October 4, 2011
Court rules FDNY's hiring practices broadly discriminatory on basis of race and orders major reforms to be overseen by court
October 4, 2011
Court rules FDNY's hiring practices broadly discriminatory on basis of race and orders major reforms to be overseen by court
Judge Garaufis finds the exams given in 1999 and 2002 violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and orders the development of a new, validated test as well as financial relief for Black and Latino firefighter applicants who had not been hired or whose hiring had been delayed as a result of the unlawful use of the exams. The district court further finds the City's discrimination intentional.
September 30, 2011
Court issues Findings of Fact in favor of Vulcans
September 30, 2011
Court issues Findings of Fact in favor of Vulcans

Judge Garaufis issues an 81-page Findings of Fact, in which he finds that court supervision of the FDNY’s future firefighter recruitment efforts will be necessary; the character and background investigation process must be changed to make it more transparent and fair to Black applicants; and the FDNY’s Equal Employment Office does not effectively and efficiently investigate and resolve complaints of workplace racial discrimination.

 

August 1, 2011
Court holds three-week trial in federal court in Brooklyn on injunctive relief and compensatory damages
August 1, 2011
Court holds three-week trial in federal court in Brooklyn on injunctive relief and compensatory damages

During this trial, the Vulcans and the City call several witnesses to testify about the City’s firefighter recruitment efforts, the firefighter applicant character and background investigation process, the cadet program, the FDNY’s investigations of workplace discrimination complaints, and issues related to compensatory damages.

September 29, 2010
Vulcan Society files motion for affirmative injunctive relief and compensatory damages
September 29, 2010
Vulcan Society files motion for affirmative injunctive relief and compensatory damages
In this motion, the Vulcans ask the court to order the City to make significant changes to its firefighter hiring practices, beyond the exam, to remedy the effects of its 40 years of discrimination against Black firefighter applicants. These changes include: (1) enhanced recruitment of minority applicants, (2) creation of a more objective and transparent applicant character and background investigation process, (3) reinstatement of the FDNY Fire Safety Cadet program to increase interest in the firefighter career among high school and college students of color in the city, and (4) improvements to the way the FDNY investigates and resolves complaints of racial discrimination in the workplace. The Vulcans also ask for $14 million in compensatory damages for the thousands of Black victims of the discriminatory 1999 and 2002 firefighter exams.
August 4, 2010
Court finds additional exam also unlawful under Civil Rights Act
August 4, 2010
Court finds additional exam also unlawful under Civil Rights Act
Judge Garaufis finds Exam 6019 is also unlawful under the Civil Rights Act.
June 1, 2010
Court appoints Mary Jo White new special master
June 1, 2010
Court appoints Mary Jo White new special master
May 26, 2010
Court appoints special master Robert Morgenthau to oversee remedial phase of case
May 26, 2010
Court appoints special master Robert Morgenthau to oversee remedial phase of case
The District Court appoints former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau as special master to oversee the remedial phase of the case.
January 21, 2010
Court orders development of a new written exam, back pay and hiring of firefighters with retroactive seniority
January 21, 2010
Court orders development of a new written exam, back pay and hiring of firefighters with retroactive seniority
In the first of several remedial orders in this case, the District Court orders the City to work with the Vulcans and DOJ to develop a new, non-discriminatory firefighter test, and to hire as firefighters up to 293 Black and Hispanic applicants who took either the 1999 or 2002 firefighter exams and give them retroactive seniority.
January 13, 2010
Court grants summary judgment for intentional discrimination claims against City
January 13, 2010
Court grants summary judgment for intentional discrimination claims against City

The District Court grants summary judgment in the Vulcans' and individual plaintiffs’ favor on their intentional discrimination claims against the City, but grants summary judgment in favor of defendants on the intentional discrimination claims against Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Scoppetta.

September 18, 2009
Defendants move to dismiss case
September 18, 2009
Defendants move to dismiss case

Defendants move to dismiss and for summary judgment on the Vulcans' and individual plaintiffs’ claims of intentional discrimination against the City, Mayor Bloomberg, and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. The Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs cross-move for summary judgment on intentional discrimination claims.

August 5, 2009
Court compels deposition of Mayor Michael Bloomberg
August 5, 2009
Court compels deposition of Mayor Michael Bloomberg
July 22, 2009
Court grants summary judgement to Vulcans, individual plaintiffs and DOJ on disparate impact claims
July 22, 2009
Court grants summary judgement to Vulcans, individual plaintiffs and DOJ on disparate impact claims
May 11, 2009
Court certifies case as class action
May 11, 2009
Court certifies case as class action
The United States District Court certifies the case as a class action, with the Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs named as class representatives.
March 19, 2009
Court hears oral argument on summary judgment and class certification motions
March 19, 2009
Court hears oral argument on summary judgment and class certification motions
February 23, 2009
Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs move for summary judgment
April 25, 2008
Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs file motion for class certification
April 25, 2008
Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs file motion for class certification

The Vulcan Society and individual plaintiffs file a motion for class certification; the DOJ responds, the City opposes, and CCR replies.

September 25, 2007
Court grants Vulcan Society and individuals' motion to intervene
September 25, 2007
Court grants Vulcan Society and individuals' motion to intervene
The Vulcan Society and the three individuals' motion to intervene as plaintiffs is granted, while the Uniformed Firefighters Association's motion is denied.
July 17, 2007
CCR files to intervene in DOJ suit
July 17, 2007
CCR files to intervene in DOJ suit
CCR files to intervene on behalf of the Vulcan Society and Messrs. Haywood, Nunez, and Gregg as plaintiffs.
July 11, 2007
Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) seeks permission to intervene on side of City and other defendants
July 11, 2007
Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) seeks permission to intervene on side of City and other defendants
May 21, 2007

DOJ files USA v. City of New York

May 21, 2007

DOJ files USA v. City of New York

The DOJ files a lawsuit against the City after the EEOC attempts an informal resolution of the dispute but the City refuses to come to the table and the EEOC refers the charge to the Department of Justice, a standard procedure when an EEOC charge is brought against a public employer.
November 29, 2005
EEOC determines in favor of firefighters, finds probable cause of discrimination by City
November 29, 2005
EEOC determines in favor of firefighters, finds probable cause of discrimination by City
The EEOC issues a determination in favor of the individual firefighter applicants, stating that "the difference in pass/fail rates is highly statistically significant," and finds probable cause that the City had discriminated.
April 9, 2002
Vulcan Society files federal EEOC complaints against FDNY
April 9, 2002
Vulcan Society files federal EEOC complaints against FDNY
The Vulcan Society files a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the New York City Fire Department, charging the FDNY with discriminatory hiring practices. Several months later, CCR files morte EEOC charges on behalf of the Vulcan Society. In February 2005, CCR files a second EEOC charge on behalf of three Black firefighter applicants, Marcus Haywood, Candido Nunez and Roger Gregg.