Settlement Reached in FDNY Discrimination Suit

Matthew Chayes and Gary Dymski, Newsday, March 18, 2014

New York City has agreed to settle a civil-rights lawsuit accusing its fire department of intentionally discriminating in hiring minorities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the U.S. Justice Department, in announcing the agreement Tuesday, said the city will pay about $98 million to resolve allegations the FDNY engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African-American and Hispanic applicants for the entry-level firefighter position by using two discriminatory written tests in 1999 and 2002.

The agreement in principle will be incorporated into a consent decree that is subject to a fairness hearing and must be approved by the district court, according to a release Tuesday from the Justice Department.

The lawsuit originated in 2007 when the department filed its complaint alleging that the FDNY’s use of the two written tests violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by disproportionately screening out African-American and Hispanic applicants for the entry-level firefighter position, the release said.

The settlement is yet another break with the Bloomberg administration for the de Blasio administration.

Under the settlement, the city will pay money to applicants alleging FDNY discrimination, as well as enact new policies intended to curb future discrimination and address allegations of past discrimination, said Jen Nessel, a spokeswoman for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a group of black firefighters who allege FDNY discrimination.

The settlement also includes back pay, Nessel said.

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