Posted on March 26, 2009

Portsmouth Settles Firefighter Discrimination Complaint

WVEC-TV (Hampton Roads, Virginia), March 25, 2009

The City of Portsmouth will stop giving a written examination to entry-level firefighters because it’s discriminatory, according to an agreement awaiting approval by a federal judge.

Additionally, Portsmouth must hire up to 10 eligible and qualified African-Americans who were part of the federal lawsuit.

The Department of Justice and the city entered a consent decree in U.S. District Court in Norfolk Wednesday.

According to the initial complaint in May 2007, about 42 percent of African-American applicants passed the written test while 85% of whites passed.


The complaint alleged that Portsmouth couldn’t demonstrate that the written examination was job related or necessary for the position of firefighter.

Under the agreement, Portsmouth will implement new selection procedures, deposit $145,000 into a settlement fund for awards of back pay to affected African-Americans and give those affected a priority offer of employment with retroactive seniority for all purposes except for time-in-grade required for promotion.

[Editor’s Note: The final complaint and the final consent decree can both be read or downloaded as PDF files at the original article.]