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Judge Says Appointee Should Handle FDNY Claims Process Following Discrimination Suit

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

A federal judge who deemed the FDNY's entrance exam racially-discriminatory has issued new guidelines to speed up a claims process that could provide compensation for thousands of fire department candidates who allege discriminatory hiring practices.

In a court order and memorandum issued Monday, Brooklyn Judge Nicholas Garaufis recommended appointing a "special master" to oversee the individual claims process, adding in his order that it's "the most appropriate mechanism for the speedy resolution of these individual questions."

Garaufis will make a final decision on whether to appoint a special master, after discussing the issue with both parties in the case.

Darius Charney, who represents the Vulcan Society — the group that originally filed the discrimination suit — called the proposal a fair one, and said it's important to have a neutral, third party involved.

"Our major concern is that the process be transparent, that it be fair, and that you know every applicant has the same opportunity to prove that in fact they were eligible to be hired, except for the fact that the test was discriminatory," said Charney, who noted that the compensation amounts could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, the city is working with Charney's group and others to write a new entrance exam that will allow it to hire new firefighters.

"We are currently developing the next exam and expect to announce the registration period around the beginning of July, with the exam to be administered around December," said Georgia Pestana, chief of the Labor and Employment Division at the city's law department.

She said the city doesn't "have any information on how a referee might work beyond what's in the decision."

The city has rejected previous hiring proposals suggested by the judge back in September — claiming the proposed methods all rely on "race-based quota" options. Without a new test, the city has been unable to hire additional firefighters.

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