Secondary Navigation

Mayor de Blasio Administration Settles FDNY Racial Discrimination Lawsuit with the Vulcan Society

March 18, 2014

CONTACT:, (212) 788-2958

City to Pay $98 Million, Appoint Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Increase Recruitment Efforts Targeting Minorities and Women

NEW YORK – The de Blasio Administration today announced an agreement to settle the 2007 Vulcan Society’s lawsuit against the City of New York over two civil service exams found to be discriminatory against African American and Hispanic applicants. The City has agreed to pay approximately $98 million in backpay and benefits to African American and Hispanic firefighter applicants who took two civil service exams in 1999 and 2002, and will implement additional reforms in the FDNY’s recruiting policies in an effort to further diversify the ranks of the organization to make them more representative of the city’s population.

“The brave men and women of the FDNY work tirelessly to keep us safe from harm’s way – and our administration is committed to ensuring every New Yorker who seeks to take on this heroic role has a fair opportunity to join the ranks. This administration is fully committed to promoting diversity and equal access in every sector across our five boroughs, and this settlement will move New York City one step closer to this goal,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“When we see any member of our community excluded from an opportunity to succeed, it is our responsibility to act. Today, this administration has taken a historic step forward with a settlement that will rectify past harm and increase diversity in FDNY’s ranks.  This settlement will not only compensate those affected by the FDNY’s civil service exams, but also ensure the FDNY has the capacity, support and structures in place to build a stronger and more diverse department in the years to come,” said Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice challenged the city’s use of two written civil service examinations for the position of entry-level firefighters, alleging that the tests resulted in a disparate impact on African American and Hispanic applicants. The FDNY’s Vulcan Society claimed the same disparate impact and asserted intentional discrimination claims as well. Under the City’s settlement, the City will pay claimants who took the two tests but did not get hired, as well as FDNY members who may have been hired late due to the tests’ disparate impact. The City will pay approximately $98 million in backpay, fringe benefits and interest to the test takers. 

In addition, the City has also agreed to undertake a number of steps to help increase the diversity of the FDNY. The City has agreed to:

  • Use best efforts to recruit African American test-takers for the civil service exam in proportions closely approximating the representation of age-eligible African American New Yorkers in the city’s labor market, plus 3 percent.
  • Create an executive staff position of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO) for the FDNY, who will report directly to the Fire Commissioner. The CDIO will appoint a uniformed member to a position of full-time Diversity Advocate, who will be responsible for raising concerns relating to fairness, transparency, and respect for firefighter candidates during the hiring process and probationary firefighters in the Fire Academy.
  • Increase FDNY transparency regarding the medical standards and components of the medical exam applicable to firefighter candidates.
  • Give New York City residents who graduate from the Fire Academy first priority for placement into a fire company within the division in which they live, to the extent reasonable, practical and consistent with operational needs.
  • Engage with the Department of Education and New York City colleges to create educational and other opportunities that will enhance the ability of minorities and women to pursue careers as firefighters.