The city has agreed to pay roughly $98 million in back pay and benefits to settle a New York City Fire Department racial discrimination lawsuit brought against the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced on Tuesday.
“This administration is fully committed to promoting diversity and equal access in every sector across our five boroughs, and this settlement will move New York City one step closer to this goal,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice argued against the city’s use of two written civil service exams for the entry-level firefighter position, claiming that the tests unfairly targeted African-American and Hispanic applicants, according to a press release by the Office of the Mayor.
The Vulcan Society, a fraternal group of black firefighters, made similar accusations, claiming that there were deliberate acts of discrimination. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner both opposed the lawsuit, Newsday reported.
Capt. Paul Washington, a former president of the Vulcan Society, praised the settlement, ABC News reported.
"This is a great day in the city of New York," Washington said. "And we hope that this is the beginning of a new day for the New York City Fire Department."
Craig Gurian, executive director of the Anti-Discrimination Center, praised the de Blasio administration for settling the lawsuit, but said that it was an action that was long overdue.
Gurian criticized the way in which the Bloomberg administration handled the case, arguing that the administration had been "irresponsible and immature" and failed to seriously assess the issues in the case.
"Many people accepted the idea that the Bloomberg administration handled things in a business-like fashion, billionaire, all that business sense, but in fact, the conduct of the city and the conduct of the Law Department had been throughout this case immature and bullying," he said.
The city has also agreed to a number of steps to bring more diversity to the FDNY, including the creation of a chief diversity and inclusion officer position for the FDNY and giving Fire Academy graduates who are New York residents priority for placement into a fire company in a division in which they reside.