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Settlement Reached in FDNY Discriminatory Hiring Suit

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For years, the city has been fighting a discrimination lawsuit brought by black firefighters. On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration put the case to rest. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

It's been a protracted legal battle spanning seven years, pitting, in some instances, black firefighters against white. On Tuesday, it ended.

"The discrimination in the department was so obvious that this case should have been resolved, I think, a long time ago," said Richard Levy, an attorney for the Vulcan Society.

The de Blasio administration reached a settlement with members of the Vulcan Society, a black fraternal firefighter organization, over claims that the New York City Fire Department intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic firefighters.

Under the deal, some 1,500 applicants will split $98 million in back pay and benefits.

"I'm just sad that they won't now have to stand on trial in front of the judge and explain why, why they didn't do these things," said Paul Washington, former president of the Vulcan Society.

The case dates back to 2007, when the Justice Department sued the city over two firefighter exams. One was from 1999. The other was from 2002. A court found that those exams discriminated against black and Hispanic firefighters.

As part of the settlement, the city will hire a chief diversity and inclusion officer for the FDNY. It will also ramp up its recruitment efforts for black applicants.

Since the legal battle, the department has become slightly more diverse. Still, the vast majority of firefighters are white - 84 percent, to be exact - while nine percent are Hispanic and six percent are black.

"What we need beyond this settlement, we need a commissioner that understands the dynamic, the challenges ahead," said John Coombs of the Vulcan Society.

In a statement, Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said that he hopes the department can attract more people of color to its ranks.

However, just because there's a settlement, the issue of diversity may not be going away.

"Will this lead to quota hiring in promotions and assignments and appointments? We're entering pretty scary territory," said Paul Mannix of Merit Matters.

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