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City Agrees to $98 Million Settlement, Ending FDNY Discrimination Suit

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A long-standing battle between the city and a group of black firefighters has ended.

The city has reached a $98 million settlement with the Vulcan Society, which sued the city seven years ago claiming the Fire Department’s entrance exams discriminated against minority candidates. A federal judge agreed with their claims and ordered the city to revamp the test and diversify its ranks. The city offered its first FDNY entrance exam in five years just last spring.

Darius Charney, who represented the Vulcan Society, said money from the settlement will go toward paying some 1,500 black and Latino applicants who weren’t hired — or were hired late — from the 1999 and 2002 entrance exams.

Charney said the settlement requires the FDNY to take additional steps to increase diversity, like prioritizing placement of new firefighters in the neighborhoods where they live.

“Having firefighters in the community in which they live is an incredible recruitment tool and there really is no substitute for it, particularly in communities of color,” he said.

The settlement also requires the department to create a new position — a Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer — to oversee additional efforts within the department going forward.

“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,” de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday. “The 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.”

De Blasio’s predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg had continually challenged the judge’s ruling, even seeking at one point to have him removed from the case.

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