Fire Department Discrimination Against African American Non-Firefighter Employees

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Fire Department Discrimination Against African American Non-Firefighter Employees

Fire Department Discrimination Against African American Non-Firefighter Employees by James Vagnini{Read in 2:30 minutes} The New York City Fire Department is filled with extremely brave men and women, some out in the field and many behind the scenes. While there is certainly a long and illustrious history of dedication and incredible courage, unfortunately over the years there have also been repeated allegations of racial discrimination. As recently as 2014, the city agreed to pay $98 million to settle what is known as the “Vulcan” case to address allegations of racial bias against New York City Firefighters.  Now, in a federal lawsuit, our firm, Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP and Washington D.C. based Mehri & Skalet filed on behalf of civilian workers of the FDNY and a federal judge ruled that the case can move forward.

The class action lawsuit filed on behalf of African-American FDNY non-firefighter, civilian employees alleges a pattern of racial discrimination leading to lower wages and a lack of promotions, as well as a failure to hire.

What is particularly interesting about this case is that all city departments hire based on civil service tests administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). For example, if you are seeking a job as a computer specialist 1, you take the computer specialist 1 exam and get your score. At that point, every city agency that needs a computer specialist can pull from that Civil Service list. African Americans who have been pulled or called from these DCAS lists are generally hired and work in city departments.

If there were no discrimination in hiring, you would expect that the percentage of African American employees would be relatively equal across all city agencies. However, the percentages of African Americans in these roles in the fire department are dramatically lower than in other city agencies. The FDNY has no apparent justification for employing fewer African-Americans than other agencies because they draw from the same pool of applicants.

In response to the lawsuit, the city moved to dismiss the claims. However, the judge denied the city’s motion, permitting the claims to go forward. The judge acknowledged that the statistical evidence presented thus far (prior to discovery and based on publicly available information) “goes a long way” toward showing that the case has merit. It is likely that over the years hundreds of workers have been affected by the alleged discrimination with significant financial impact. While other lawsuits have certainly influenced change, the issue of racial disparity at the FDNY has not yet been eradicated.  It is our hope that the future FDNY will include a workplace full of diversity and equality. Those who work at the FDNY have dedicated their lives to helping others. It is our goal to ensure that racism plays no part in its future.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding wage and hour violations, please feel free to contact me at 516-203-7180.

Robert J. Valli, Jr.

Partner
email: [email protected]

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