Court Orders Chicago Fire Department to Hire 111 Black Men

Judge says Chicago must compensate Black men with jobs or cash for discriminatory testing practices.

Posted: 08/17/2011 08:58 AM EDT
Filed Under Civil Rights

In another victory for Black firefighters, the City of Chicago has been ordered to hire 111 Black men and to compensate 6,000 others who were passed over for employment due to discriminatory testing practices.


“By comparison to the Police Department, African-Americans are dramatically under-represented,” said Joshua Karsh, an attorney for the plaintiffs, to the Chicago Sun Times. “This is the remedy for violating the law. Hopefully, this will deter the city from ever violating the law in this fashion again.”


The case was stalled when lower courts ruled that the firefighters waited too late to file a claim because the lawsuit was filed more than a year after the hiring list was created. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the filing was not late and that the City of Chicago violated civil rights laws by denying the men jobs.


The court order, expected to be approved today, outlines the process by which the city must compensate the men after more than 15 years.


According to the court order, men will be contacted by mail and those who are still interested in positions with the fire department will be entered into a jobs lottery out of which 750 candidates will be chosen and invited to take a physical abilities test and undergo background checks, drug testing and other medical exams.


Those who are no longer interested in joining the fire department will receive awards of $5000 each. The fire department will also suspend its new hire cut-off age of 38 for the Black firefighters because when their claim began, there was no age limit.


The original case dates back to 1995 when the Chicago Fire Department administered an employment exam to 26,000 candidates. According to the city’s guidelines, anyone who scored above 65 was considered qualified, but instead of accepting all qualified candidates, the department chose to hire from random sets of candidates who scored 89 or better.


The city later conceded that the 89-point cutoff created a disparate impact against the 6,000 Black candidates who received qualified scores.

(Photo: Brian Kersey/AP)

From Our Partners