Ruled Wednesday by a New York judge, the city has been informally charged with discriminating against minorities when it comes to hiring firefighters. As it stands now, the department’s work force is comprised of a mere 10% of Blacks and Hispanics.
There was an agreement across the board between U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis and the Department of Justice citing that these minority workers were unjustly blackballed during firefighter recruitment exams. The delegation was also joined by a group of Black firefighters that felt a sense of inequality during these exams in 1999 and 2002.
Garaufis stated that the exams were used by the city in order to hire close to 5,500 firefighters from 1999 to 2007. In the case of minorities, around 1,000 were cheated out of their opportunity to join that Fire Department of New York which has close to 11,000 on its work force. Among 3,100 Black candidates and 4,200 Hispanic, only 184 Black and 461 Hispanic were picked up by the city to become an entry level firefighter. As the minority applicants failed in a way that seemed unbalanced, the judge also noted that the ones that actually passed were placed deeper in the barrel in comparison to their white counterparts in relation to the hiring list.
City attorney Georgia Pestana has expressed the city’s feelings of being discontent with the ruling citing the judge’s use of a ruling by the Supreme Court in New Haven, Conn. In this case, the city threw away exam results when minorities performed worse than whites. According the city of New Haven, getting rid of the documentation was only complying with laws against discrimination during testing.
The difference between the two cases is that New York was able to raise eyebrows by throwing the question of whether these exams were actually having a negative impact on minorities when it pertained to gaining positions.
According to the judge, the case was a clear indication that when an exam is given that doesn’t relate to the actual job and minorities are heavily affected it cannot be presumed that the better test taker is the better employee. The city’s negligence to this could be a slight problem because a score cannot exactly show how someone will perform and if they will actually be adequate once on the work force.
$2 million was spent in January 2007 on the development of a new test that actually intended to increase the amount of minorities on the Fire Department of New York, according to Pestana. The results showed that the number of Blacks tripled and the number of Hispanics doubled.
Whether discrimination is real or not in the work force continues to be in question with a fuzzy gray area, but one thing for certain is that numbers never lie.