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Appeals Court Judge Rejects FDNY Hiring Decision

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a judge's ruling that the city had intentionally discriminated against minorities in firefighter hiring practices. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

The New York City Fire Department was handed a victory by a federal appeals court on Tuesday.

In an 82-page decision, the court overturned a ruling that said the city intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants to the FDNY.

"We're very happy that the intentional discrimination was overturned," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. "Spending almost 44 years in the department, it didn't feel that that was the right decision that the judge made, and it's obvious that it's been overturned."

The ruling is the latest in a decade-long court battle over the fire department's hiring practices.

A lower court ruled that two firefighter exams in 1999 and 2002 discriminated against minorities. The judge overseeing that case said the city did it intentionally.

That ruling of intent has been thrown out, at least for now. The issue could now head to trial under another judge.

"If a new judge is put on the case and looks at it differently, we think that that will be upheld," Cassano said.

Members of the Vulcan Society, a black firefighter organization and a plaintiff in the case, said the ruling was not a setback.

"The major aspects of this case don't change at all by today's ruling, and that is, we are going to start to see, finally, in 150 years, for the first time ever, we are going to see integrated classes of firefighters being hired," said Paul Washington, a past president of the Vulcan Society.

The ruling does slice the amount of time that a court-appointed monitor will oversee the city's recruitment process, from 10 years down to five.

As the decision came down, the commissioner was testifying before the City Council. He said the ruling will not affect future classes of firefighters, one of which is set to graduate this week.

"Forty percent of this class is people of color, 40 percent, and five women," he said. "It's moving up."

The decision will also not affect the amount of damages or back pay the city may have to pay to minority applicants. It could be as much as $130 million.

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