August 30, New York – Today, a federal court awarded $3,707,313.29 in interim fees and costs to attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Levy Ratner, and Scott+Scott LLP, who represent Black firefighters and applicants in a federal class-action lawsuit against the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). In May, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld broad relief, including an independent monitor, ordered by the district court to end the long-standing discriminatory impact of FDNY testing and hiring practices, and ordered that the plaintiffs’ intentional discrimination claim proceed to trial.
“Today’s award reflects not only the hard work by attorneys in this case, but also what the court called the FDNY’s ‘seemingly unlimited resolve to oppose their every move.’ In its stubborn resistance to remedy entrenched, longstanding racial discrimination throughout the Department, the FDNY has attached a considerable price tag to inequality. Obstinacy is costly,” said CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy.
The case was filed on behalf of the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of Black firefighters. Victims of the City’s discrimination will receive back pay and job offers, and the City has been required to submit each and every aspect of its firefighter hiring process to court review. The City must also enhance its recruitment of Black and Latino applicants and ensure fair and equal treatment of Black and Latino firefighters on the job. The reforms will be overseen by a court monitor for ten years.
In awarding the fees and costs, the court noted the “magnitude and importance” of the changes to the FDNY. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have obtained “wide-ranging equitable relief, including oversight of a major city department and court orders directing an end to discrimination in one of the City’s most revered institutions. …[T]hey worked tirelessly in the name of civil rights, and worked without remuneration—until now,” the court wrote.
Said lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Richard Levy, “For decades, the Vulcan Society has demanded racial equality in the FDNY, and because of them, Black applicants for the first time have a fair opportunity to serve as New York City firefighters. We will continue our work to speed relief to victims and to monitor every aspect of the FDNY’s hiring process for fairness and inclusiveness.”
United States of America and Vulcan Society, Inc. v. City of New York grew out of two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filings by the Center for Constitutional Rights, in 2002 and 2005, on behalf of the Vulcan Society. In 2007, the Department of Justice filed suit against the City of New York based on the EEOC findings. The Vulcan Society and several Black firefighter applicants intervened to join the suit as plaintiffs.
Levy Ratner, P.C. has advocated for unions and workers for more than 35 years in the areas of plaintiff’s employment law, union-side labor law, employee benefits, bankruptcy, campaign finance and election law.
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.
August 30, 2013