The end of a seven-year-old racial discrimination lawsuit was announced on Tuesday as a Black firefighters’ group reached a $98 million settlement with New York City.
According to the Associated Press, roughly 1,500 minorities took the New York City Fire Department entrance exam that was later found to be biased.
The Vulcan Society, a group dedicated to celebrating past and future Black firefighters in New York, filed a lawsuit in 2005, and a Brooklyn federal judge ruled that the exams were discriminatory against African-American and Hispanic applicants.
Now all those applicants will be eligible to receive back pay that will cost the city roughly $92 million, if each applicant seeks compensation.
An additional $6 million will be paid to cover lost medical payments, benefits and interest payments that were due to the test takers, but denied as a result of the discrimination between 1999 and 2002.
The Vulcan Society hopes that the ruling will mark the beginning of a new era for New York’s fire departments.
“This is a great day in the city of New York,” said Capt. Paul Washington, former president of the Vulcan Society. “And we hope that this is the beginning of a new day for the New York City Fire Department.”
The settlement also calls for FDNY to make policy changes that would help increase diversity within its ranks.
The FDNY will not be required to create an executive position for diversity, appoint a uniformed advocate to hear claims of racial discrimination and set goals for proportional representation and recruiting levels that are higher than the number of Black and Hispanic members in the community.
In the past, other rulings in this case have also made way for changes.
In May 2013, an appeals court ruled that the FDNY must be supervised for up to five years to make sure no other forms of discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics occurs again in its hiring practices.
Before that, in 2011, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered the appointment of an independent authoritative figure to oversee the recruitment, testing and hiring of new firefighters for at least 10 years.
The ruling was made after it was revealed that less than 10 percent of the over 11,000 firefighters in New York were Black or Hispanic.
Blacks and Hispanics make up more than half of the city’s population.
The settlement was reached just a matter of days before the trial was scheduled to begin later this month.
The FDNY is currently about 85 percent white, but hopes that the number of minorities will sky rocket very soon.