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EEOC charges firefighters union with bias in promotions


JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—Firefighter promotions continue to be a flashpoint for litigation, with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging a Jacksonville firefighters union with a racially discriminatory promotions process.

The EEOC said Monday it is charging the Jacksonville Assn. of Firefighters, which is Local 122 of the International Assn. of Firefighters, with engaging in intentional discrimination when it negotiated a racially discriminatory promotional process in the City of Jacksonville.

According to the EEOC, whose lawsuit was filed in federal district court for the middle district of Florida, the city of Jacksonville's written exams for firefighter promotions have a disparate impact on African-American job candidates and are not job related or consistent with business necessity.

The EEOC said the union is liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “because it negotiated in favor of such tests through the collective bargaining process, despite knowing that the tests have a disproportionately adverse impact on black test takers.”

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said in a statement, “Labor unions are not beyond the reach of Title VII. The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its own Title VII lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville, and our companion lawsuit against the union pursues enforcement of the law against an equally important entity that we believe has perpetuated a discriminatory process.” The EEOC said the Department of Justice filed its suit against the city April 23.

The EEOC said in its statement that EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru first filed a charge of discrimination against the union in February 2008. After an investigation, “the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe the union had discriminated against black firefighters with respect to the promotional process,” it said in its statement.

A union spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

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