Black Employees File Civil Rights Lawsuit Against NYC Fire Department, Say Racism Within FDNY Is a ‘Disease’

Plaintiffs Annette Richardson (left) and Stephanie Thomas, of New York City’s Fire Department, speak during a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Dec. 6, 2017, in New York City. (Richard Drew/AP Images)

Black employees have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Fire Department of New York, alleging that the city agency has failed to pay and promote its black workers at a level equal to that of their white peers.

This is beginning to feel a lot like déjà vu.

As the New York Daily News reports, seven employees are currently suing the FDNY, though lawyers want to get class action status so that other civilian FDNY employees and Emergency Medical Services workers can join the suit. The suit doesn’t include firefighters, though the Fire Department has already settled a previous lawsuit that claimed black and Latinx applicants for firefighting jobs were discriminated against. The suit cost the FDNY $98 million and forced it to change its hiring practices.


Not a good look for “New York’s bravest.”

From the New York Daily News:

The new suit charges wages at jobs held mostly by minorities at the Fire Department are only 62 percent of those mostly held by whites. And they say the FDNY is hiring fewer blacks for its civilian jobs overall—33 percent less than would be expected if its rates were the same as other city agencies, a number that gets even worse in higher-paying positions.


Stephanie Thomas, a computer specialist and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said that she has gone 29 years at the FDNY without a promotion—and not for lack of trying. In two years, she had applied for seven positions, five of which ultimately went to white candidates.

The lawsuit could expand to thousands, the Daily News notes, if it covers people who were denied positions at the FDNY or were forced out of the department.


The FDNY is the country’s largest fire department—and has long been accused of being a bastion for white men. Back in 2014, the city’s former fire commissioner Thomas Von Essen blasted the FDNY for the routine racism, homophobia, gay-bashing and sexism that took place in its firehouses. Von Essen, who testified in the firefighters’ civil trial, also said that the New York City Police Department was “a lot better” than the FDNY when it came to being inclusive of people of color and LBTQ personnel.

Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer for the group that filed the most recent FDNY suit, told reporters at a press conference outside New York’s City Hall Wednesday, “The entrenched racism within this organization is a disease.”


Read more at the New York Daily News.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?