A federal judge blocked New York City’s plan to hire 300 firefighters after he said the city used a written exam that discriminates against minority applicants.
Judge Nicholas Garaufis had been overseeing a discrimination lawsuit against the fire department. Two written fire department exams used from 1999 to 2002 were found to be discriminatory toward blacks and Hispanics. The department reportedly had fewer than 10 percent minority employees, even though they accounted for more than half the city’s population in 2009.
The judge issued an injunction Wednesday that will prevent the city from offering positions to 300 applicants who had already taken the exam, the New York Times reported. Garaufis said the city had not proven that the new test was effective in selected the best, qualified applicants.
“What the examination does do is screen and rank applicants in a manner that disproportionately excludes black and Hispanic applicants,” he wrote in his ruling. “As a result, hundreds of minority applicants are being denied the opportunity to serve as New York firefighters, for no legitimate or justifiable reason.”
City lawyer Georgia Pestana told the New York Daily News that if the department is not allowed to hire a new class, the city will have to make up for understaffing by paying nearly $2 million a month in overtime.
“We are extremely disappointed in [the] decision,” Pestana said.
An attorney for the Vulcan Society of black firefighters estimated it could take six months to a year to construct a new exam that is deemed satisfactory by the judge and the federal government, the New York Daily News said.