July 15, 2016, Albany – Today, the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of Black New York City firefighters, along with their attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the law firm of Levy Ratner are urging a Civil Service Commission in Albany, NY, to approve a Fire Cadet Program to increase diversity within the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). The proposed educational program, which the Vulcans and their lawyers developed together with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), grew out of a 2014 settlement over claims of intentional discrimination in Vulcan Society v. City of New York, CCR’s class action lawsuit with the Vulcans that challenged racially discriminatory hiring practices within the FDNY.
“The lack of diversity in the FDNY persists in part because of the word-of-mouth recruiting and friends and family job networks within the FDNY, which has historically privileged white applicants who are friends and relatives of existing firefighters and often hail from outside of the city,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff AttorneyDarius Charney. “The Fire Cadet Program will increase firefighter job awareness and opportunities for young New Yorkers of color and help the FDNY become a department that truly looks like the city it serves.”
If approved, the Fire Cadet Program will offer a two-year educational and job-training program for New York City high school graduates, who will then be eligible to take the firefighter entrance exam, and, if they pass, be placed on a fast-track hiring list for the firefighter job, similar to what has been done for more than a decade for FDNY Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s) seeking to promote to the firefighter rank. The program, which will work like a paid internship, will enable more minority youths in the city to learn about and pursue a career as a New York City firefighter. By drawing from within New York City communities, the program will bring a more diverse group of applicants than the FDNY has historically had. Studies confirm that many firefighters choose to follow their career paths because of friends or family members who have served in the FDNY. And many firefighters do not live in New York City, but in suburbs and surrounding areas. The proposed program is similar to a program used by the NYPD that has successfully increased diversity within its ranks.
In 2011, after a historic decision finding New York City liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for disparate impact racial discrimination in its Fire Department hiring, 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, we entered into a settlement on the Title VII and constitutional claims of intentional discrimination, which imposed new diversity recruitment goals for the FDNY, required creation of educational opportunities for young people of color interested in a firefighting career, and established the position of FDNY Chief Diversity Officer to ensure equal opportunity within the department.
Learn more about the lawsuit that led to the proposed cadet program on CCR’s case page.
Levy Ratner, P.C., Scott + Scott LLP are co-counsel in the case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.