BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A federal judge approved new entry tests on Friday to redress discrimination against aspiring minority firefighters who have been excluded for decades from joining the Fire Department of New York.
Nearly one year ago, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufus wrote a scorching opinion ordering reforms to end the “stubborn bastion of white male privilege” in the FDNY.
The ruling forced the city to redesign its entrance exams, encourage minorities to apply through ad campaigns and pay up to $128 million in damages to black and Latino applications that failed tests deemed to be discriminatory.
Meanwhile, New York City lawyers claimed progress on Friday night, as the court approved the 2012 fire exam.
More than 41,000 candidates took the test this March and April.
A study of the test found “no statistically significant difference between the rates of white and minority candidates being ranked at 97 or above,” according to the order approving the test.
Roughly 46 percent of the test-takers were people of color, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said.
“We’re pleased that we can now begin hiring to fill the more than 650 current vacancies in the firefighter ranks,” he added.
Judge Garaufis tempered his previously harsh criticism with praise for the city’s progress.
“The court notes that this exam and resulting list are the product of a city-led, collaborative effort to improve on the city’s past record of non-compliance with Title VII,” he wrote. “While the court appreciates each party’s contribution to this effort, it is most grateful for the pro bono efforts of Special Master Mary Jo White and her colleagues at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, including her law partner Mary Beth Hogan and her associates Philip A. Fortino and Chinelo E. Dike-Minor. Their work in supervising this effort has been tireless and thorough.”
But the new exam “does not end this case,” he added.
He directed a new court monitor, Mark Cohen, to guide the creation and implementation of the post-examination process on Friday.
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