URBAN AGENDA: Years after Discrimination Lawsuit, FDNY Still Synonymous with Racism and Nepotism

David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York | 5/17/2018, midnight
It's no secret that the New York City Fire Department’s rank and file doesn’t resemble the diverse communities they serve.
David R. Jones Contributed

Laurant has filed a federal employment discrimination suit. It comes six months after another lawsuit was filed against the FDNY that accuses it of discriminating against black employees and job seekers in its EMT and civilian support staff operations. Both of those cases come almost four years after the mayor and FDNY agreed to pay $98 million to settle a class action discrimination lawsuit and to increase the number of Latino and black firefighters.

Taken together, Laurant’s case and the new EMT lawsuit paint a picture of the same conduct in the suit settled in 2015. They force us again to contemplate the nub of the problem: How to root out the overt racism in the FDNY that has made it a bastion of white male privilege for nearly 150 years? And what are the chances that New York City government, which over the years has implicitly endorsed the FDNY’s discriminatory practices, will voluntarily find a moral compass?

Last year, the FDNY spent $10 million on its promotional campaign to increase the number of minority recruits; however, a close look at recruitment numbers shows the sheer number of African American applicants has not increased significantly. It didn’t work!

Mayor de Blasio should view the new federal lawsuits and unequal treatment of Laurant and Cassano with alarm. He should use his powers to reform the FDNY hiring process, including decisions about who gets invited to take the FDNY physical assessment after passing the test and management of the waiting list so more minorities are called for open slots in the fire academy. The mayor may need to appoint a neutral outside party, such as a retired federal judge, to oversee the process.

Mayor de Blasio can end the FDNY’s discriminatory practices if he chooses.

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.