August 19, 2010, New York – Today, a federal court judge took testimony from three witnesses put on by the City of New York in the federal civil rights lawsuit on the racially discriminatory hiring practices of the New York City Fire Department. At issue is the question of whether and how the FDNY can hire several hundred new firefighters from a pool of applicants who took the 2007 firefighter exam which the court last week found violated federal civil rights law in its discriminatory impact on Blacks and Latinos.
All parties agreed the City should be permitted to hire now if necessary, but the judge stressed the need to reach a fair and sensible resolution for interim hiring before a new exam is created, one that balances the needs of the Fire Department with the court’s obligation to enforce the the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Said attorney Richard Levy, “The Vulcan Society wants the City to be able to hire firefighters. Our position is that the City can hire firefighters now if it does so in a lawful way that does not discriminate.”
In an August 4th ruling, District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis decreed the City of New York’s 2007 FDNY entrance exam (Exam 6019) racially discriminatory and temporarily prohibited the City from using its results for hiring purposes. Judge Garaufis scheduled today’s hearing to give the City an opportunity to explain “why the need to appoint a few hundred rookie firefighters using an invalid test outweighs the need to avoid racial discrimination in municipal hiring” and to discuss non-discriminatory hiring methods, should the City have a legitimate need to hire before a new exam is designed and administered. The Court also noted that the City of New York had cancelled its last entry-level class in 2009 and that the Mayoral administration has advocated closing fire houses and reducing staffing in recent months.
Said CCR Attorney Anjana Samant, “Despite noise the City made last week following the ruling, the Chief of Operations of the FDNY testified in court today that they can operate at current staffing levels for at least another six months. We hope they will find a way to fill the needs of the city without continuing their pattern of discrimination.”
New York City has the least diverse fire department of any major city in America. While the combined black and Hispanic population of New York City is over half the City’s total population, black and Hispanic 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 scathing opinions in agreement over the course of the litigation.
Visit CCR’s case page for more information on United States of America and the Vulcans Society, Inc. v. City of New York.
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.