City agrees to $98 million in back pay for FDNY discrimination case

The de Blasio administration announced Tuesday that would offer some $98 million in back pay to black and Latino firefighters as a part of a settlement against the city.
Credit: nwardez/Flickr

The de Blasio administration announced Tuesday that would offer some $98 million in back pay to black and Latino firefighters as a part of a settlement against the city.

The agreement stems from a 7-year-old lawsuit originally brought forward by the Department of Justice under former president George W. Bush, accused the New York City Fire Department of discriminating against minority applicants through its civil service exams for entry-level firefighters.

The Vulcan Society of Black Firefighters and seven individual plaintiffs originally sued the city in 2007, when the Bloomberg administration defended the 1999 and 2002 civil service exams despite complaints that the tests discriminated against black and Latino applicants.

“We are pleased with the settlement,” said Vulcan Society President John Coombs in a statement, “and we are optimistic that this represents a first step by the de Blasio administration to ensure that fair and equal hiring practices become the standard in the FDNY from this day forward.”

The agreement will split the awarded amount between applicants who took either test and were either not hired or hired late as a result. Members of the administration, however, also hope the announcement makes the beginning of a systemic change.

“This settlement will not only compensate those affected by the FDNY’s civil service exams, but also ensure the FDNY has the capacity, support and structures in place to build a stronger and more diverse department in the years to come,” said the city’s Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said in a statement.

The settlement also calls for the Fire Department to appoint a chief diversity officer and a diversity advocate, as well as expand minority recruitment and prioritize placement of New York City residents.

“The brave men and women of the FDNY work tirelessly to keep us safe from harm’s way – and our administration is committed to ensuring every New Yorker who seeks to take on this heroic role has a fair opportunity to join the ranks,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

The mayor added that his remains committed to promoting diversity and equal access, and that Tuesday’s settlement moves the city “one step closer to this goal.”

Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose office will review the agreement, also applauded the news.

“Today’s settlement in principle is an affirmation that New York City will not tolerate discrimination in any form,” he wrote in a statement.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria


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