Black employees have hit the FDNY with a federal civil rights lawsuit, charging it hasn’t extinguished racism within its ranks.
Seven employees have joined the suit — and lawyers are seeking class-action status for hundreds of other civilian FDNY workers and emergency medical services personnel.
“The entrenched racism within this organization is a disease,” Cyrus Mehri, the group’s lawyer, said Wednesday at a press conference outside City Hall.
The suit, filed Friday in Manhattan federal court, charges black employees have been paid less and passed over for promotions and raises that their white counterparts got.
It covers both civilian FDNY workers and uniformed EMS personnel, but not firefighters. The class could potentially expand to the thousands, also covering people who applied for jobs and didn’t get them or have left the department.
The Fire Department previously settled a massive suit charging discrimination against blacks and Hispanics applying to become firefighters, agreeing to pay $98 million and revamp its hiring practices.
The new suit charges 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 filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year making similar allegations. That complaint is pending.
Annette Richardson, a director in the human resources department, said when she got the job eight years ago, she was given a salary 33% less than what her white predecessor made.
“I’m deeply disappointed and I’ve been disillusioned,” she said. “At this point, I will never catch up to where I should be.”
Computer specialist Stephanie Thomas said she’s gone 29 years without a promotion, despite applying for seven positions in the last two years alone. Of the five she knows were filled, all went to white candidates.
Meanwhile, white employees hired after her with similar or lesser credentials have moved up the ranks, she said.
“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 suit seeks unspecified financial damages, the appointment of an outside monitor and a court-approved plan to increase representation of African-American employees.
Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) took a shot at the department for shafting its black workers while at the same time allowing the son of a former FDNY commissioner to become a firefighter despite his having posted racist and anti-Semitic tweets.
Joe Cassano, the son of retired Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, is set to join the FDNY academy this month.
“If your last name happens to be Cassano, and your father heads the Fire Department, then you can praise Hitler, you can talk about black people, you can say all kinds of crazy things, and still get into this Fire Department,” Williams said. “That’s why this case is so important.”
The FDNY referred questions to the city Law Department.
“These allegations are not new. The parties have been discussing the issues raised in this complaint for some time,” said Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci.
Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/black-employees-sue-fdny-not-putting-racism-disease-article-1.3682030623