It seems that every few months, fire departments across the country are settling racial discrimination lawsuits or being accused of racist behavior.
Last year a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a white Mount Vernon, New York, firefighter who said he was passed over for promotion because of his race. After years of fighting, in 2011, twenty white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, settled their reverse-discrimination case with the city for $2 million. As seen all over the country, Black firefighters aren’t the only ones facing discrimination; stories of white firefighters facing discrimination continue to arise as well.
Most recently, twelve Buffalo Fire Department and City of Buffalo firefighters have been awarded more than $2.5 million dollars for a discrimination lawsuit, as announced on Wednesday.
In the lawsuit originally filed in 2007, thirteen white firefighters claimed the city and the department allowed promotion lists to expire so they could promote more African-Americans. One firefighter wasn’t awarded damages because the court felt he did not have enough evidence for his claim.
The awards were based on how far their promotions would have taken them — $49,000 to $500,000 — plus damages for emotional distress, which ranged from $20,000 to $30,000.
"The two fellows who are getting the most were selected for promotion to lieutenant in the fall of 2005 by the fire commissioner, and then again around the end of January 2006 by a new fire commissioner. Those two fellows have never made it to lieutenant," an attorney representing the plaintiffs, Andrew Fleming, told msnbc.com on Thursday. "They had been working 10 or 12 years by 2006. So the judge looked at what their prospective promotions would have been, and ruled that it was likely they would have made battalion commander."
The two men were both given $500,000, based on the judge's calculations.
The city of Buffalo is reviewing the decision and has not ruled out appealing the decision.
Separately, the city of New York, however, has recently appealed a discrimination decision.
According to a 139-page legal brief filed last week by the City of New York, the city has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a judge’s decision that the FDNY intentionally discriminated against minorities in hiring. They have also asked to reassign the case to a “neutral arbiter” and claim the judge committed multiple legal errors and was preoccupied with press coverage and acting as both a “witness and advocate” for the Vulcan Society of Black firefighters.
It looks like it could be a while before firefighters of all races are satisfied.
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