FDNY Refuses to Hire New Firefighters

September 17, 2010, New York: Today, the City of New York refused to select a non-discriminatory method for hiring entry-level firefighters, even though the court gave it the freedom to choose from among five different methods--all of which involved hiring from among individuals who had taken the City's 2007 FDNY entrance exam (Exam 6019)--to select firefighters until a new firefighter entrance exam is created. On August 4, Federal District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Exam 6019 violated the law because it had a disparate impact on Blacks and Latinos and did not meaningfully distinguish between qualified and unqualified candidates. Nevertheless, Judge Garaufis, in an attempt to strike a balance between the mandates of civil rights laws and the City's claimed hiring needs, ruled that the City could engage in interim hiring so long as it did so in a non-discriminatory manner, a move supported by the Vulcan Society, the professional association of Black firefighters. The Court gave the City until today to choose which of five methods the Judge ruled were lawful it would use to fill empty firefighter positions. The City instead chose to refuse all of the lawful options and delay hiring. Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the law firm of Levy Ratner representing the Vulcan Society, issued the following statement:
The City has refused all of the legal, nondiscriminatory interim hiring methods presented by the Court and has chosen to delay hiring the next class of firefighters despite earlier claims of an urgent need to hire. City could have averted this entire issue if it had created a lawful exam or otherwise considered in a timely manner how it might fairly use the Exam 6019 list. The City has known for more than four years that it was giving tests that violate the law and chose to do nothing. With respect to Exam 6019, the City has been on notice for more than a year that it too was likely unlawful, yet did no planning for interim hiring given this probability and is responsible for the frustration felt by all at the current time. In recent weeks, Judge Garaufis asked all parties to the litigation to suggest methods for interim hiring that were lawful and able to meet the City's alleged needs. We had searched for the least disruptive, least discriminatory, and most fair ways to hire this class. Judge Garaufis, rather than forcing any one method on the City, opted to give it the choice to select the method it preferred. Instead, the City continues to obstruct any efforts at collective resolution and drag its feet when it comes to diversifying the firefighter workforce. Since Exam 6019 does not predict job performance in any way, hiring from higher or lower scores makes no difference in terms of hiring the most qualified firefighter candidates. Using 6019 scores is like hiring a Major League first baseman on the basis of a written exam. The test has nothing to do with who would be the best firefighters.Yet the City's top attorney issued a statement with asserting that "The citizens of this City are entitled to firefighters who are hired based on their ability rather than on their race or ethnicity." Time and time again, the test has been shown to have no bearing whatsoever on ability. The City has chosen to ignore the Court's well-reasoned opinion that the current test does not predict better performance on the job.
New York City has the least diverse fire department of any major city in America. While the combined Black and Latino population of New York City is over half the total population of the city, Black and Latino firefighters comprise roughly 4 percent and 7 percent of the FDNY, respectively. More than half of Los Angeles and Philadelphia's firefighters, and 40 percent of Boston's are people of color. The rulings that preceded today's hearing came in a lawsuit that grew out of two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filings by the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel Levy Ratner, PC, on behalf of the Vulcan Society, the fraternal order of Black firefighters, in 2002 and 2005. The Department of Justice filed suit against the City of New York based on the EEOC findings in 2007, and the Vulcan Society intervened to join the suit as plaintiffs. The lawsuit charges the Fire Department of New York with discriminatory hiring practices, and Judge Garaufis has issued several opinions finding unlawful practices by the City beginning as early as 1999. Visit CCR's case page for more information on United States of America and the Vulcans Society, Inc. v. City of New York.

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.


Last modified 

September 17, 2010