A case spanning seven years that sought to end discrimination in the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), will be settled for $98 million. A black firefighters’ group alleged that the FDNY’s hiring practices were biased against minorities. As a result of the settlement, over 1,500 FDNY applicants will share $98 million covering lost medical payments, back pay and benefits.
In 2007, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit claiming that two written exams for prospective firefighters were biased against minorities in an attempt to keep the FDNY overwhelmingly white, and the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has just moved to settle the case. The FDNY will now change its hiring process, create an executive position for diversity, and have an independent monitor appointed to oversee the hiring of new firefighters.
The statistics themselves are stunning: according to the New York Daily News, the FDNY is 86% white, 9% Hispanic and 5% black, while the NYPD is 52% white, 27% Hispanic and 16% black. The NYPD numbers are more in line with the overall population of New York City which is 57.6% white, 18.2% Hispanic and 17.5% black, according the United States Census Bureau.
Employees and prospective employees are protected against discrimination under federal and state law. Any decision made by the employer—such as docking pay, hiring, firing or denying promotion—that is based on a discriminatory factor, gives the employee a right to take action against the employer. This landmark lawsuit is a big victory for victims of discrimination.