A fraternal order of black firefighters moved Tuesday to join a lawsuit in which the U.S. Department of Justice has accused the city of inadvertently discouraging blacks and Hispanics from joining the Fire Department.
Lawyers for the Vulcan Society filed papers in Brooklyn federal court intervening in the case on the side of the Justice Department, which has argued that a written exam used by the city in 1999 and 2002 to screen new hires contained SAT-style questions that didn’t measure someone’s ability to fight fires.
Critics of the test say it excluded poorly educated black and Hispanic candidates who might have made great firefighters.
City officials have defended their hiring practices. While acknowledging that the FDNY is predominantly white, they said steps had already been taken to encourage diversity, including developing a new entry exam and boosting recruitment efforts.
Represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Vulcan Society has already been deeply involved in the dispute. It was its complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2002 that prompted the Justice Department to act.
The union representing the bulk of New York’s firefighters, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, has also joined the case, but has taken the city’s side.
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