Judge Rules FDNY Hiring Process is Broadly Racially Discriminatory; Orders Wide-ranging, Court-supervised Reforms

October 5, 2011, New York, NY – Today, in a federal class-action lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Levy Ratner, P.C., and Scott & Scott, LLP, on behalf of the Vulcan Society, the fraternal organization of Black firefighters, U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled the New York City Fire Department’s hiring practices to be broadly discriminatory on the basis of race and ordered major reforms to be overseen by the court. Judge Garaufis’s ruling goes well beyond the initial findings of the Court that the FDNY written entrance exams for the firefighter job were racially discriminatory and unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

“It is clear from Judge Garaufis’s decision that the city will now have to fix much more than its written examination to remedy over forty years of racial discrimination against Black and Hispanic firefighter candidates,” said CCR attorney Darius Charney. 
Lead Counsel Richard A. Levy from Levy Ratner said, “What is astounding to me is that the City has for decades turned a blind eye to a glaring problem of racial discrimination in the FDNY. It is gratifying that the Court has recognized that the only way to end the City’s history of discrimination is to require accountability and transparency in the FDNY’s conduct. The Court’s order was based on lengthy hearings, including testimony from high-level City officials, and substantial documentary evidence.”
This latest ruling, which follows a three-week trial in August looking into the extent of the FDNY’s discriminatory practices, finds racial discrimination and other problems well beyond the written exam, including the department’s recruitment practices, candidate background checks, and the handling of on-the-job racial bias complaints. Among other things, Judge Garaufis has ordered that the FDNY hire independent consultants to identify best practices for recruiting and hiring Black and Hispanic candidates and ensuring a non-discriminatory work environment; train all FDNY candidate investigators regarding city, state, and federal EEO laws and policies; and conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of its entire firefighter hiring process. Further, the court will appoint a monitor to oversee the City’s implementation of its order. This monitoring will continue for ten years.
“Today—four years of litigation and two adverse liability rulings later—the City still doesn’t get it,” the Judge wrote. “In testimony and depositions in this case, the City’s senior leaders have routinely denied that they are responsible for doing anything to remedy nearly forty years of discrimination.”
Today’s ruling came in a lawsuit that grew out of two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filings by the Center for Constitutional Rights., 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 and several Black firefighter applicants intervened to join the suit as plaintiffs. The lawsuit charges the Fire Department of New York with discriminatory hiring practices, and Judge Garaufis has already issued two earlier decisions finding the City’s hiring practices violate Title VII , the United States Constitution, and the City and State Human Rights Laws. The case is U.S. v. City of New York, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, no. 07-2067
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 

October 5, 2011