Several Black employees have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the New York Fire Department, claiming the FDNY has failed to pay and promote its black workers at a level equal to their white peers.
Seven employees are currently suing the FDNY, though lawyers want to get class-action status so other civilian FDNY employees and emergency medical services workers can join the suit.
The suit does not include firefighters, though the Fire Department has already settled a previous lawsuit that claimed black and Latinx applicants for firefighting jobs were discriminated against. The suit cost the FDNY $98 million and forced them to change their hiring practices, reported The New York Daily News.
The new suit claims wages at jobs held mostly by minorities at the Fire Department are only 62% of those mostly held by whites. And they say the FDNY is hiring fewer blacks for its civilian jobs overall — 33% less than would be expected if its rates were the same as other city agencies, a number that gets even worse in higher-paying positions.
Black employees also filed a complaint with the EEOC last year with similar allegations, and that is still pending.
Stephanie Thomas, a computer specialist and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said she had gone 29 years at the FDNY without a promotion—and not for lack of trying. In two years, she had applied for seven positions, 5 of which ultimately went to white candidates. She also said that white employees with similar or lesser credentials and less seniority have been promoted.
“It’s supposed to be your ability, your performance,” she said. “They are given the opportunity to go up the ranks, to be managers, and I’m not.”
The lawsuit could potentially expand to thousands if it covers people who were denied positions at the FDNY, or left the department.
Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer for the group who filed the most recent FDNY suit, told reporters at a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday, “The entrenched racism within this organization is a disease.”