FDNY Faces New Race Discrimination Allegations

Race discrimination is sadly not limited to the private sector. Many high-profile New York agencies have had to deal with a history of discriminatory employment practices. This includes New York's Bravest.

In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed seven years earlier against the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) over the use of civil service examinations to qualify entry-level firefighters. Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Vulcan Society, a fraternal group of African-American firefighters, said the exams as then administered had a “disparate impact” on African-American and Hispanic applicants. The City's settlement ultimately cost $98 million in back pay, benefits, and interest to individuals affected by the discriminatory tests.

Unfortunately, the 2014 settlement did not put an end to the questions surrounding racially discriminatory practices at FDNY. In December 2017, seven civilian employees of FDNY filed a new lawsuit alleging there is still a “broad pattern of racial discrimination.” The plaintiffs, who are African-American, say they are paid less than their white counterparts and have been unfairly denied promotions within the department.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuit does not involve firefighters as the previous litigation did. The plaintiffs here allege discrimination against civilian and emergency medical services employees. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status and seek relief including “the appointment of a monitor to review job selection and payment decisions and to oversee a plan to increase representation of African-American civilian employees within the department.”

Department Accused of Demoting Former Official Over Cooperation With Settlement Monitor

Separately, a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled on December 27, 2017, that the former head of FDNY's Equal Employment Opportunity Office could proceed with her own race discrimination lawsuit against the department. The plaintiff her said she was demoted after meeting with a consultant appointed under the city's 2014 race discrimination settlement. At that meeting, the plaintiff said she informed the consultant that discrimination “was broader that revealed” during the course of the litigation. Three days later, the FDNY reassigned the plaintiff to a different position.

The city moved to dismiss the lawsuit. But the judge presiding over the case denied the city's motion after “weighing the evidence and credibility of the parties.” Specifically, the judge said after questioning the plaintiff directly, he concluded she was a “credible witness,” and a jury could find her demotion was retaliation based on race and not a “coincidence.”

Get Help From a New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

One thing is clear. The FDNY's race discrimination problems are not behind it. At a minimum, these new lawsuits renewed public and political scrutiny of the department's employment practices.

There are many other New York employers who continue to tolerate and promote a culture of discrimination based on race, sex, age, and disability. If you work, or have worked, for such an employer and suffered from any form of discrimination, it is critical you speak with a qualified New York employment attorney who can review your situation and advise you of your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar at 646.760.6493 if you need to meet with a lawyer today.