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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.
The DOJ filed the suit saying the entities engaged in racial discrimination against black firefighters seeking promotion.
According to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday, the department believes that a written test given to the firefighters attempting to climb the ranks is to blame for the "statistically significantly lower" number of black applicants advancing to higher ranks. Ranks in question include District Chief (Suppression), Captain (Suppression), Lieutenant (Suppression) and Engineer.
Now the DOJ is asking for a court order to stop the city and fire department from using the written examinations in question and force it to redefine the selection processes it uses for promotions. It also seeks "make-whole relief" for those firefighters already negatively impacted by the promotional process, including back pay, retroactive seniority and even promotions.
"This complaint should send a clear message to all public employers that employment practices that have the effect of excluding qualified candidates on account of race will not be tolerated," said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "At best, these tests measure only a slice of what is necessary to be a supervisor, but they stand in the way of qualified African-Americans advancing in the fire department. The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole."
A court order, finalized on Wednesday, instructs the Chicago Fire Department to add 111 black firefighters by March 2012.
The order, presented by U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gotschall, stems from a civil rights case that has made its way through trial and federal court. The lawsuit alleged that the Chicago Fire Department used discriminatory practices in its evaluation of scores for a 1995 entrance exam.
This May, a federal appeals court ruled that CFD must hire 111 African Americans who passed the exam in 1995.
The employments serve as part of the overall plan to pay at least $30 million in damages to some 6,000 plaintiffs in the case.