A black firefighters group has reached a $98 million settlement with the City of New York and the U.S. Department of Justice in its seven-year lawsuit charging the city with racially discriminatory hiring practices.
Attorneys for the Vulcan Society Inc., along with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and New York-based law firm Levy Ratner P.C., said in a statement Tuesday that under terms of the settlement, current minority Fire Department of New York incumbents will be eligible to receive back pay and more than $6 million of lost medical benefits.
According to a statement issued by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's office, terms of the settlement also include using “best efforts” to recruit African-American test takers; creating an executive staff position of chief diversity and inclusion officer for the New York Fire Department; and increasing fire department transparency regarding the medical standards and components of the medical exam applicable to firefighter candidates.
In addition, the settlement gives New York City residents who graduate from the Fire Academy first priority for placement into a fire company and provides for engaging with the city's department of education and New York City colleges to create opportunities that will enhance minorities' and women's ability to pursue firefighting careers.
Legal developments in the long-running case, which has focused on the department's reliance on two written exams, have included a 2012 ruling by a federal judge who ordered New York City to pay $128.7 million in back pay in the case.
Commenting on the ruling, Vulcan Society President John Coombs said in a statement, “We are pleased with the settlement, and we are optimistic that this represents a first step by the de Blasio administration to ensure that fair and equal hiring practices become the standard in the (Fire Department of New York) from this day forward.”
Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “The brave men and women of the FDNY work tirelessly to keep us safe from harm's way — and our administration is committed to ensuring every New Yorker who seeks to take on this heroic role has a fair opportunity to join the ranks. This administration is fully committed to promoting diversity and equal access in every sector across our five boroughs, and this settlement will move New York City one step closer to this goal.”
The class-action lawsuit originally was filed in 2007.