Justice Department sues city over firefighter tests

JACKSONVILLE, FL &#8211 The U.S. Justice Department sued Jacksonville on Monday over promotion tests that federal lawyers said discriminated against black firefighters.

“This complaint should send a clear message … that employment practices that have the effect of excluding qualified candidates on account of race will not be tolerated,” said a statement from Thomas Perez, an assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

Read the lawsuit

Perez seemed to dismiss the tests’ worth as a tool for advancement.

“At best, these tests measure only a slice of what is necessary to be a supervisor, but they stand in the way of qualified African-Americans advancing in the fire department,” he said. “The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole.”

In announcing the suit, Justice officials said there were two elements of concern. First, black firefighters “pass the examinations at significantly lower rates than white candidates,” an announcement about the case said. Secondly, because “African-American candidates score significantly lower than whites,” the announcement said, few of those who pass the test are actually promoted.

The International Association of Firefighters Jacksonville local was also named in the suit but did not appear to be accused of any improper conduct.
Noting that the union represents firefighters who hold all four of the ranks being challenged, the lawsuit said the union’s involvement in the case “is necessary for complete relief.”

The suit challenges tests used between 2004 to 2011 to measure firefighters’ qualifications to hold the ranks of engineer, fire suppression lieutenant, suppression captain and suppression district chief.

From The Florida Times-Union.

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