FDNY Discrimination Trial Begins in Brooklyn

The City of New York and its Fire Department are being accused of discriminating against black and hispanics during the hiring examination to apply to become firefighters. In 2010, the FDNY was ordered by Courts to change the recruitment policy to allow more blacks and hispanics to join the FDNY as they only represent 9% of firefighters in New York City today.

As of last Monday, the case has been set to go to trial before Federal Courts in Brooklyn. The Plaintiffs were allegedly discriminated against as applicants. The Judge already ruled that the tests did, in fact, discriminate against blacks and hispanics but City officials and its Department of Justice dispute that they were not doing enough before the trial to be fair in hiring practices.

“In order to be a firefighter, one does not need to know the history of the department and nor does one need to be a volunteer firefighter” said John Coombs, president of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal black association.

The first phase of the trial, which involves determining the discrimination, will likely last a week. Then, the second two phases of the trial, which involve damages to Plaintiffs, will likely last a week each.

The Fire Department just unveiled last July a new million-dollar ad campaign aimed at increasing the minority applicant pool for a newly designed entrance exam. This method seems to be working: the FDNY reported that there is a three-fold rise in black applicants this year. According to the New York Post, 640 black candidates have signed up for the test, compared to 184 in 2007 when the test was last given. The Post also says about three times as many white people have also applied.