Chicago settles firefighter discrimination case

CHICAGO — It will cost the city of Chicago at least $45 million to compensate thousands of African-Americans who lost a shot at becoming a Chicago firefighter because of a discriminatory test, under a federal court order entered Wednesday that brings an end to 13 years of litigation.

Up to 6,000 black applicants in 1995 lost out on the chance to be placed on the list of potential firefighters because the exam and its qualifying cut-off score favored white job seekers, the courts first found six years ago.

But the city appealed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year rejected the city’s contention the suit was filed too late. That ruling led to Wednesday’s order.

“It’s been a long and very difficult process, but we are extremely happy” said Matthew Piers, lead attorney for the black firefighter applicants.

The applicants who can be located will equally share a court award of $30 million, which means each will get at least $5,000, Piers said. Out of those applicants, the city will have to hire 111, who also will get city pension contributions of at least $15 million, Piers said.

Black applicants who qualify under the court order and still want to be firefighters must still pass pre-employment screening, physical tests, drug screens and medical examinations to be placed on a special eligibility list for the 111 jobs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who inherited the problem when he took office earlier this year, did not specify where the money will come from or how the Fire Department will add the new firefighters.

“There is a program the Fire Department is putting in place as it relates to hiring for the future,” Emanuel said at a news conference in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood about a program to try to fight foreclosures. “The Fire Department, Commissioner (Robert) Hoff, is putting that in place and putting out notices, and taking those steps.

“As it relates to settling the $30 million, that’s going to be a responsibility we’re going to have as a city to deal with, and I acknowledge that, and the commissioner acknowledges that, and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Emanuel said. “So that’s the past.

“The future is about making sure people feel they got a shot at becoming a fireman, because you want the best quality in our Fire Department. That’s our goal as a city.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Car crashes into Everett apartment, displacing residents

No one was injured in the crash late Friday, according to Everett police.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read