FDNY Racial Bias Trial Heads to Damages Phase

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Black and Latino firefighters, and an organization representing them, kept their class certification to join a trial for damages following a finding that minority applicants face discrimination in New York City’s screening tests for fire department admission.

     In a 48-page order, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis scheduled three bench trials for August stemming from the original federal lawsuit. Garaufis also established which firefighters can join the suit and denied their bid for injunctive relief before trial begins.
     On May 21, 2007, federal prosecutors sued the city of New York, claiming that its examinations for entry-level firefighters excluded black and Latino applicants with screening that was not essential for the job.
     Months later, the Vulcan Society, an organization representing black firefighters, and three individuals moved to join the suit in a class action.
     The court found the city liable for disparate-impact discrimination in July 2009, and for engaging in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against black firefighter applicants by the following January.
     As the parties entered the remedial phase of the litigation, minority firefighters filed their motion for continued class certification on Oct. 7, 2009. The victims of the city’s discrimination were divided between those who were not hired and those whose hirings were delayed.
     Judge Garaufis ordered the intervening plaintiffs to renew their class certification multiple times, and imposed some limitations on Monday for victims who claim they lost certain “intangible” employment benefits.
     A trial for injunctive relief for victims of the city’s discrimination will begin on Aug. 1.
     A bench trial on disputed issues related to back pay will begin on Aug. 8, and a third trial on noneconomic losses is slated for Aug. 15. Each trial will last less than a week.
     New York City Law Department spokeswoman Kate Ahlers said her team is still reviewing the decision, adding that the the city has a new exam in the works.
     “We’re currently developing the next exam,” Ahlers said. “We expect to announce the registration period around the beginning of April. The exam is expected to be administered around December.”     
     A lawyers for the plaintiff class did not immediately return requests for comment.
     A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it would be inappropriate to comment on a pending case.

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