New York City firefighters case example of racial discrimination lawsuit

Employers are prohibited from making employment decisions on the basis of a worker's race. Any adverse employment action, including firing, declining to hire, blocking a promotion or assigning certain job duties, if taken due to an employee's race, can qualify as discrimination. Racial discrimination may also consist of policies unrelated to job qualifications that are seemingly race neutral, but that tend to exclude racial minorities at a disproportionate level.

At the federal level, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the applicable law that prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with more than 15 workers. However, anti-discrimination laws in New York City are some of the most powerful in the nation, and these laws extend protections against racial discrimination to anyone working for an employer with five or more employees.

A recent settlement in a very high profile New York City case is a good example of the types of fact patterns that can lead to racial discrimination cases.

Settlement includes $98 million for those discriminated against in hiring

Applicants to the Fire Department of New York must take civil service exams prior to being hired. Back in 2007, a lawsuit was filed alleging that the FDNY's hiring practices and exams had systematically excluded black and Hispanic applicants from firefighter jobs.

It took until 2011 for a federal judge to agree with the allegations made in the suit. But, two years later, that decision was overturned by an appeals court.

With future legal wrangling on the horizon, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Mar. 18, 2014 that New York City was finally settling the matter. Under the settlement agreement, New York City will pay approximately $98 million in benefits and back pay to black and Hispanic firefighter applicants who took the allegedly discriminatory civil service exams and were either not hired or did receive jobs but were delayed.

In addition to compensating applicants who were harmed by discriminatory practices, the settlement agreement establishes a new hiring process that should eliminate bias. It will also create a new executive staff position at the FDNY for a chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Talk to a New York City attorney about your racial discrimination case

Racial discrimination can be alarmingly overt, but it can also be deceptively subtle. If you believe that an employer may have based a decision concerning your employment on race or national origin, you should seek legal advice.

Your case might not be as sweeping as the one concerning the FDNY, but every worker has the right to pursue gainful employment without being unfairly hindered because of race. Talk to a New York City racial discrimination lawyer today to get the compensation you deserve and to ensure that discriminatory policies and practices are ended.