New York City Lawsuit Alleges Race Discrimination in Violation of Federal Employment Law

In New York City and New Jersey, employment laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race and multiple other factors. Race discrimination in employment remains a serious problem all over the country, despite advances in the past 50 years. Some organizations, which were once quite open about their willingness to discriminate on the basis of race, still retain elements of that culture to this day. A putative class action filed late last year in a Manhattan federal court alleges that the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has a long history of discrimination against African American employees and job applicants. Richardson, et al. v. City of New York, No. 1:17-cv-09447, complaint (S.D.N.Y., Dec. 1, 2017).

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants “because of the actual or perceived…race…of any person.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). This provision is similar to those found in federal law and in state laws all over the country, including New Jersey race discrimination laws. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1991 protects the right to “make and enforce contracts” on equal terms, regardless of race, which includes employment contracts. 42 U.S.C. § 1981. A government employer, such as a city, state, or federal agency, that engages in employment discrimination on the basis of race may also be liable for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The Richardson complaint describes a history of race discrimination in the FDNY, claiming that only “token integration” started in the 1960s. Richardson, complaint at 1. It notes two prior class actions alleging race discrimination against the FDNY in the hiring of firefighters. The first involved discrimination against African American and Hispanic firefighter applicants. Vulcan Society of New York City Fire Dep’t, Inc. v. Civil Serv. Comm’n, 490 F.2d 387 (2d Cir. 1973). The injunction issued by the court expired in 1977, and the city allegedly resumed discriminatory hiring practices for firefighters. The U.S. Department of Justice eventually filed suit, resulting in a ruling “that the FDNY’s hiring procedures discriminate against black applicants.” United States v. City of New York, 683 F.Supp.2d 225, 250-51 (E.D.N.Y 2010).

The current lawsuit alleges a broad range of discriminatory activities affecting “African American emergency medical services (‘EMS’) and non-uniformed (‘Civilian’) employees and job applicants.” Richardson, complaint at 1. The complaint alleges the manipulation of the city’s standard hiring processes “through outside hires or promotions to select persons from favored groups.” Id. at 7. It further alleges that African Americans constitute a smaller percentage of the FDNY’s workforce than in other city agencies, and this disparity is even greater in “higher compensated positions.” Id. at 14.

The plaintiffs claim that they have each experienced numerous instances of race discrimination in hiring, salary, promotions, and assignment of job duties. One plaintiff states that she has remained in the same position since she started working for the FDNY in 1989, despite impressive educational and professional credentials in project management, as well as accomplishments in her current position. The lawsuit asserts claims for race discrimination under the NYCHRL and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, as well as civil rights claims under § 1983.

If you have questions about a dispute with an employer in New Jersey or New York, contact a race discrimination attorney at the Resnick Law Group today online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997.

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Race Discrimination Lawsuit Asks Court to Hold Restaurant Franchise Owner Liable for Acts of Franchisee, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 11, 2015

Federal Race Discrimination Lawsuit Accused Cosmetics Company CEO of a Wide Range of Derogatory Statements, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, April 17, 2015

Lawsuit in New Jersey State Court Accuses Police Department of Sexual Harassment, Race Discrimination, and Harassment, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, March 20, 2014

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