Justice Dept. near $98 million settlement with FDNY

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 18, 2014 

New York will pay approximately $98 million to settle Justice Department complaints about allegedly discriminatory hiring practices at the storied Fire Department of New York, under an agreement in principle reached Tuesday.

The proposed agreement resolves allegations that 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.

A judge previously found that the written tests screened out black and Hispanic applicants at a significantly higher rate than white applicants; and did not predict which applicants would be best able to perform the job.

“This resolution will help ensure that those who seek to serve as firefighters in New York City have an equal opportunity to do so, regardless of their race,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.

According to the original 2007 complaint, only 7.3 percent of African-American applicants and 10.9 percent of Hispanic applicants scored in the top 20 percent of all test takers. The low test scores were associated with low hiring rates.

Hiring has since changed. In the FDNY recruit class sworn in last year, two-thirds of the 313 recruits were African-American, Hispanic or Asian-American.

Under the agreement in principle, the FDNY will pay money to those African-American and Hispanic victims of past discrimination who filed claim forms and who have already been found eligible for relief by the court.

A fairness hearing and approval by a district court will still be required before the agreement is final.

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