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Background Information

Overview

In 1999 and 2002, New York City administered tests for entry-level firefighter positions. A group of black firefighters (the Vulcan Society) and black firefighter applicants complained to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that the tests discriminated against them because of their race. The EEOC found probable cause to believe that the City […]

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Case Timeline and Court Decisions

August 9, 2002 – The First Charge of Discrimination The Vulcan Society filed its first charge of discrimination against the City with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2002. They alleged that the City’s use of Firefighter Exam No. 7029 (given in 1999) had an unlawful disparate impact on black test-takers. On June 24, […]

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who are the parties in this case?
    • Plaintiff

      The Plaintiff in this case is the United States of America. The Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, is authorized to sue to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against state and local government employers.

      Plaintiffs-Intervenors

      The Vulcan Society and three individual firefighter applicants, Roger Gregg, Marcus Haywood and CandidoNuñez filed their own Complaint and intervened in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. The Vulcan Society is an organization of black FDNY firefighters whose mission is to end employment discrimination in the FDNY and to act as a liaison with minority communities in New York City. The Vulcan Society and the individual black applicants intervened on behalf of themselves and a class of all black firefighter applicants who were harmed by the employment practices challenged in this lawsuit. The intervenors had a right to become plaintiffs in the case because they filed the initial charges of discrimination with the EEOC that lead to the EEOC’s findings of “probable cause” against the City and this lawsuit.

      Victims who took the unlawful exams and were not hired are part of the “Non-Hire Subclass”and are represented by Roger Gregg, Marcus Haywood and Kevin Walker.

      Victims who were hired based on the unlawful exams, but whose hiring was delayed, are part of the “Delayed-Hire Subclass” and are represented by firefighter Candido Nunez and firefighter Kevin Simpkins.

      All victims of the exams are members of the “Injunctive Relief Subclass” and are represented by firefighter Rusebell Wilson and applicant Jamel Nicholson.

      Defendants

      The Defendants in this case are the City of New York,  Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and former Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

  • What claims did the United States bring against the City?
    • In May 2007, the United States sued the City of New York in the federal court for the Eastern District of New York (case number 07-cv-2067). The United States’ complaint alleged that since 1999, the City has discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants for FDNY firefighter jobs. Specifically, the United States challenged the City’s use of Written Exams 7029 and 2043, administered in 1999 and 2002to hire entry-level firefighters.

      For both exams, the United States challenged two specific practices: (1) the City’s use of the written exam as a pass/fail screening device to eliminate applicants who did not achieve the cutoff score set by the City; and (2) the City’s use of applicants’ exam scores to rank-order applicants for further processing. The United States alleged that the City’s use of these examinations had a disparate impact (a discriminatory effect) on black and Hispanic applicants, who were significantly less likely to be hired than their white counterparts.

       

  • What claims did the Vulcans and the individual black applicants bring against the City?
    • In September 2007, the Vulcans intervened in this case to pursue the charges of discrimination they originally filed with the EEOC. The Vulcans joined the United States’ challenge of the 1999 and 2002 written examinations based on their disparate impact on black applicants. In addition, the Vulcans raised their own claim that the City intentionally discriminated against black applicants by using examinations that the City knew, or should have known, were unfair and discriminatory. They also claimed that the City’s conduct violated New York State and New York City antidiscrimination laws, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

       

  • What decisions has the Judge made in the case so far?
    • The Judge has found the City guilty of disparate impact discrimination against black applicants to took the 1999 and 2002 entry-level firefighter exams.  The Judge also found that the City’s 2007 entry-level firefighter exam was unlawful.  The Judge has required the City to develop a new, lawful exam, it has ordered the City to take steps to eliminate the effects of its past discrimination, and it has ordered the City to offer jobs to up to 186 black victims and provide back pay to eligible claimants.

      For more detail about each of these decisions, see the CASE TIMELINE AND COURT DECISIONS PAGE.

       

  • What is an “unlawful disparate impact”?
    • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also employment practices that are fair in form but discriminatory in operation. A facially neutral employment practice, such as a written examination, that disproportionately excludes individuals from employment opportunities on the basis of race or national origin, and cannot be shown to be related to job performance, violates Title VII.

      In this case, the Judge found: (1) that the City’s use of two written examinations screened out black and Hispanic applicants at a significantly higher rate than white applicants; and (2) that the City had not shown that these examinations  predicted which applicants would be best able to perform the job. As a result, the Court found the City liable for disparate impact discrimination under Title VII.

       

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