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United States v. City of New York
FDNY Employment Discrimination Case

Frequently Asked Questions

Please continue to check our website for updated FAQs.

I. Background Questions

II. Claims Process Questions

III. Compensatory Damages Questions (for black claimants only)

IV. Settlement Questions

I. Background Questions

Who are the parties in this case?

The Plaintiff in this case is the United States of America. The Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, is authorized to bring suit to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), against state and local government employers.

The Vulcan Society and seven individual firefighter applicants, Roger Gregg, Marcus Haywood, Candido Nuñez, Jamel Nicholson, Rusebell Wilson, Kevin Walker, and Kevin Simpkins are Plaintiffs-Intervenors in this action. The Vulcan Society is an organization of black firefighters in the Fire Department of the City of New York (“FDNY”). The Vulcan Society and the individual firefighter applicants (referred to here collectively as the “Plaintiffs-Intervenors”) intervened on behalf of themselves and all black applicants for the position of entry-level firefighter who were harmed by the employment practices challenged in this lawsuit.

The Defendant in this case is the City of New York, a local government employer, which maintains a fire department (FDNY) and employs firefighters.

What claims did the United States bring against the City?

In May 2007, the United States filed suit against the City of New York in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (case number 07-cv-2067). The United States alleged that since 1999, the City has discriminated against black and Hispanic applicants for the position of entry-level firefighter in the FDNY. Specifically, the United States challenged the City’s use of Written Exams 7029 and 2043, first administered in 1999 and 2002, respectively, in its hiring process for the position of entry-level firefighter. The United States alleged that the City’s use of these examinations had an unlawful disparate impact on black and Hispanic applicants and did not adequately determine who was or was not qualified for the job of entry-level firefighter.

On July 22, 2009, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis ruled that the City violated Title VII. The Court found that the City’s use of the written examinations had an unlawful disparate impact on black and Hispanic applicants and could not, as the law requires, be justified as job-related and consistent with business necessity.

What claims did the Plaintiffs-Intervenors bring against the City?

In September 2007, the Court allowed the Plaintiffs-Intervenors to intervene in this case. The Plaintiffs-Intervenors joined the United States’ challenge of the two written examinations based on their disparate impact on black applicants, in addition to raising their own claim that the City intentionally discriminated against black applicants through its use of these examinations.

In January 2010, Judge Garaufis found the City liable for intentional discrimination against black applicants under Title VII, as well as state and local human rights law and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On May 14, 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling overturning the intentional discrimination finding and sending the intentional discrimination claim to a new district court judge for trial. The Second Circuit also upheld most of the remedies ordered by Judge Garaufis, including a Court Monitor to oversee the FDNY's hiring, and held that Judge Garaufis would maintain jurisdiction over financial and other remedies.

What is an “unlawful disparate impact”?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also employment practices that appear to be fair in form but are discriminatory in operation. A facially neutral employment practice, such as a written examination, that disproportionately excludes individuals from employment opportunities on the basis of their membership in a protected group, such as a particular race or national origin, and cannot be shown to be related to job performance, violates Title VII. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has explained,

[An employer] can be found liable under Title VII if it uses a facially neutral practice that has the effect of disproportionately excluding members of a particular protected group. In such cases, which apply the disparate impact theory of discrimination, the individual alleging discrimination must prove ... that the challenged practice has a substantial and significant adverse effect on a protected group. If the individual can make this demonstration, the employer will be liable for discrimination unless it can show that the practice in question is job-related and consistent with business necessity. It is the employer's burden to make this showing, and a failure to provide any justification for the practice will likely result in a finding of liability. Even if an employer can demonstrate that a practice is justified, moreover, the individual will be given an opportunity to prove that there are other available practices that would also serve the employer's purposes, but with less impact on the protected group.

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2000/titlevii_disparate.html

These facially neutral practices include the use of some written tests by employers, which have, intentionally or not, screened out people of a particular race, national origin or sex who are in fact qualified. Although using written tests to screen applicants may present the appearance of objective, merit-based selection, written tests often do not actually identify applicants who will be successful at performing a particular job. If appropriate analysis finds a test to be a poor assessment of an applicant’s ability to do a job, then the test stands in the way of identifying the best qualified candidates. As a result, it is in everyone’s interest to find a better measure.

In United States v. City of New York, Judge Garaufis found: (1) that the City’s use of two written examinations screened out black and Hispanic applicants at a significantly higher rate than white applicants; and (2) that the City’s use of these examinations did not predict which applicants would be best able to perform the job, which means that the use of these examinations was not job-related and consistent with business necessity. As a result, the Court found the City liable for disparate impact discrimination under Title VII.

Now that the City has been found liable, what happens next?

On March 18, 2014, the parties announced that they had reached an agreement in principle to settle the case. Under the agreement in principle, the City of New York will pay a total of approximately $98 million to black and Hispanic claimants who already submitted claim forms and were deemed eligible by the Court. Although the details of the settlement are still being worked out, once the settlement is finalized and approved by the district court, the settlement will replace the claims process that was previously ordered by the court. For more information about the agreement in principle, please see the Settlement Questions section.

Will the City change the way it selects entry-level firefighters in the future as a result of this lawsuit?

The parties worked jointly under the supervision of the Court to develop Exam 2000, a new selection procedure for entry-level firefighters. The City administered Exam 2000 to applicants for the entry-level firefighter position in March and April 2012. The Court approved the City's proposed use of Exam 2000 on September 28, 2012.

In addition to the development of a new selection procedure, the Court's injunctive relief order requires the City to make additional changes to its selection process. The City must make changes to its recruitment practices and to the process it uses to screen candidates who pass the entry-level firefighter examination. A Court Monitor is overseeing the City's compliance with the order.

What kinds of individual relief may be available to remedy the City’s discrimination?

The Court ordered that individuals who were harmed by the City's discriminatory practices should receive relief including money, firefighter jobs, and seniority. Under the parties' March 18, 2014, agreement in principle, claimants deemed eligible for relief by the Court will receive shares of a monetary settlement. In addition, claimants who were deemed eligible for priority hiring relief were entitled to pursue employment as firefighters with the FDNY. Delayed-hire claimants and priority hires also received retroactive seniority.

Who may be able to receive individual relief?

The Court has already determined which individuals are eligible for relief in this lawsuit. The Court's determinations were based on eligibility criteria set forth in the Final Relief Order, which were designed to identify individuals who were victims of the City's discriminatory hiring practices. If you submitted a claim form, you should have received a copy of your court decision in the mail. You may also log onto your claimant portal at www.fdnylitigation.com to see the status of your claim.

Individuals eligible for relief were black and Hispanic applicants who took entry-level firefighter Exam 7029 (first administered in 1999), Exam 2043 (first administered in 2002), or both, who also met certain other eligibility criteria. Eligible claimants included individuals who the City hired as entry-level firefighters (if their hiring was delayed due to the City's discriminatory practices), as well as those the City did not hire as entry-level firefighters. For more information, please see the Final Relief Order.

If I took Exam 6019 (first administered in 2006), am I able to receive individual relief in this lawsuit?

Please note that the Court has already finished making all eligibility determinations. If you did not submit a claim form before June 10, 2013, it is too late to submit a claim form now.

Individuals who did not take either Exam 7029 or Exam 2043 between 1999 and 2006 were not eligible to receive individual relief in this lawsuit. If you feel you were discriminated against because of your race or national origin as a result of taking one of the City's written examinations for entry-level firefighter, you should consult with an attorney (at your own expense) to determine your legal options or you can file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Department of Justice and the Plaintiffs-Intervenors have not filed suit against the City with respect to any entry-level firefighter exams other than Written Exams 7029 and 2043.

II. Claims Process Questions

Who are the Special Masters?

The Special Masters are four attorneys the Court appointed to review individual claimants' claims for relief. Everyone who submitted a claim form was assigned to a specific Special Master. The Court then reviewed the Special Masters' eligibility determinations. The Court has already made a final decision about which claimants are eligible for relief in this lawsuit.

What is the process for considering my claim?

The Court has made a final decision regarding the eligibility for relief of everyone who submitted a claim form. If you submitted a claim form and did not receive a Report and Recommendation from a Special Master regarding your eligibility for relief or the Court's order on the Special Master's eligibility recommendation, please log into your claimant portal through the claims administrator's website or contact the claims administrator, GCG.

If you have not submitted a claim form, the deadline to return claim forms has passed, and no additional claim forms will be considered by the Court.

I submitted a claim form seeking priority hiring relief, and I'm currently participating in the priority hiring process. Is it possible to delay any portion of the priority hiring process, such as the CPAT or the medical exam, or even my appointment to the FDNY Fire Academy?

Questions about the CPAT should be directed to the City's Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) at testingaccommodations@dcas.nyc.gov. If you have questions or concerns about the medical exam contact the Fire Department's Bureau of Health Services at Fire Department of New York, Chief Medical Officer, Bureau of Health Services, Room 206, 9 Metro Tech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201. If you have any questions or concerns about your background investigation contact your investigator or call (718) 999-2179 or send an email to CID@fdny.nyc.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns about the response you get after you contact the people listed above, you may contact the U.S. Department of Justice by emailing fdnycase@usdoj.gov or calling (800) 556-1950, selecting mailbox option number 7, and leaving a message.

I submitted a claim form seeking priority hiring relief. If I am successfully appointed to the FDNY Fire Academy, what will my starting salary be?

If you are ultimately hired as a priority hire and begin the FDNY Fire Academy, you will receive a higher salary, as if you had been hired from your original exam. If you took Exam 7029, you will receive the salary of someone who was hired on February 2, 2003. If you took Exam 2043, you will receive the salary of someone hired on June 11, 2006.

What additional benefits are successful priority hires entitled to as a result of this lawsuit?

If you are ultimately hired as a priority hire and begin the FDNY Fire Academy, you will receive retroactive seniority. For a definition of retroactive seniority and what it covers, please see pages 14 - 15 of the Final Relief Order. You will also receive retroactive pension benefits.

What additional benefits are eligible Delayed-Hire Claimants entitled to as a result of this lawsuit?

If you are ultimately determined to be eligible for relief as a Delayed-Hire Claimant, you will receive retroactive seniority. You will also receive retroactive pension benefits if you made the employee contributions to the Pension Fund.

I am a Delayed-Hire Claimant. Why is my presumptive hire date after my actual hire date?

The presumptive hire date for each exam is the middle date of hire for all firefighters appointed from each exam. For Exam 7029, the median hire date was February 2, 2003, and for Exam 2043, the median hire date was June 11, 2006. The Court determined that all those hired after the median hire date would receive retroactive seniority dating back to February 2, 2003 for those who took Exam 7029 and June 11, 2006 for those who took Exam 2043. Delayed-Hire Claimants who were hired before the median hire date will not receive retroactive seniority, but they will of course not lose any seniority. In other words, those whose hires were delayed the most will receive retroactive seniority back to the median or presumptive hire date, but the presumptive hire date has no effect on your seniority if you were hired before February 3, 2003 for Exam 7029 or June 11, 2006 for Exam 2043. The presumptive hire date also has no effect on your eligibility for back pay or on back pay calculations.

I submitted a claim form. What is my status?

If you submitted a claim form and know your claimant number, you may check the status of your claim by logging onto your claimant portal at www.fdnylitigation.com. You may also check your status by calling GCG at (866) 297-7120.

If you submitted a claim form, you should have received a letter from the United States Department of Justice with your preliminary eligibility determination. After that, you should have received a letter with the Special Master's recommendation about your eligibility for relief. The Court is currently considering the Special Masters' eligibility recommendations and claimant objections. The Court has finished making its eligibility determinations, and a copy of your eligibility determination was mailed to you.

If you submitted a claim form to the Department of Justice and GCG is not able to tell you your status, or if you have additional questions, you may contact the Department of Justice by emailing fdnycase@usdoj.gov or calling (800) 556-1950, selecting mailbox option number 7, and leaving a message.

Has a Special Master been appointed to my claim? If so, may I contact the Special Master directly?

The four Special Masters have requested that you contact the Claims Administrator with any questions you have about the status of your claim for relief. You can reach the Claims Administrator by emailing questions@FDNYlitigation.com or calling (866) 297-7120. You may also contact the DOJ with any concerns you may have regarding this case.

I submitted an objection to the United States' preliminary eligibility determination regarding my claim for relief. What is the status of my objection?

If you submitted an objection to the United States' preliminary eligibility determination, the Special Master took your objection into account (along with your claim form and any other materials you submitted) when making your eligibility recommendation. You should already have received a Report and Recommendation from your Special Master regarding your eligibility for relief in this case.

I submitted an objection to the Special Master's Report and Recommendation regarding my eligibility for relief. How will I be informed of the Court's decision?

The Claims Administrator will provide you with a copy of the Court's final decision regarding your eligibility for relief. The Court's order is also available on your claimant portal at www.fdnylitigation.com.

How did the May 14, 2013 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affect my claim for relief?

It did not affect your claim for relief. On May 14, 2013, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision on an appeal that the City filed regarding issues that do not have any impact on the availability of awards for back pay, lost fringe benefits, non-economic damages, retroactive seniority, and firefighter job offers for eligible claimants. The Second Circuit's decision primarily dealt with Judge Garaufis's Injunctive Relief Order, and the Second Circuit affirmed the appointment of a Court Monitor and most of the other provisions of the Injunctive Relief Order. The Second Circuit reversed two findings: (1) that the City intentionally discriminated against black applicants, and (2) that former Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta was immune from being sued for intentional race discrimination. The Second Circuit determined that the intentional discrimination claims against the City and Commissioner Scoppetta must be decided at a trial, which may take place this fall. The Second Circuit's decision has no effect on the relief to be awarded to claimants according to the Final Relief Order. So, eligible claimants can still expect to receive cash awards and, if they are qualified, firefighter job offers.

If the Court finds that I am not eligible for priority hiring relief but I went through the firefighter hiring process, will the FDNY still hire me as a priority hire?

No. In order to be hired as a priority hire, you must (1) be found eligible for priority hiring relief by the Court, and (2) successfully make it through the FDNY's firefighter hiring process. Only claimants who the Court determined are eligible for priority hiring relief and who pass every step in the FDNY's hiring process can be hired by the FDNY as priority hires.

If the Court determined that you are not eligible for priority hiring relief, the only way you could become an entry-level FDNY firefighter is if you applied and were hired through one of the FDNY's regular hiring processes (e.g., if you took Exam 2000 in early 2012 as part of the FDNY's open-competitive hiring process or, if you are a current FDNY EMT and took Exam 2500 in early 2012 as part of the FDNY's promotional hiring process).

Why was I allowed to go through the FDNY's firefighter hiring process if I am not eligible for priority hiring relief?

In order to be hired as a priority hire, you must (1) be found eligible for priority hiring relief by the Court, and (2) successfully make it through the FDNY's firefighter hiring process. If you were preliminarily determined by the United States to be ineligible for priority hiring relief, you were informed that you could only be hired as a priority hire if the United States was incorrect, but you were permitted to participate in the hiring process in order to preserve your claim for priority hiring relief.

Because the Court did not make its eligibility determinations until after the FDNY's hiring process began, some claimants who the Court ultimately determined were not eligible for priority hiring relief went through the FDNY's hiring process. Even if you passed every step in the FDNY's hiring process, if you were determined by the Court to be ineligible for priority hiring relief, you cannot be hired as a priority hire.

Will my information be kept confidential?

All information submitted through this website will be maintained and utilized in accordance with applicable federal law, including the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. ยง 552a, et seq. To the extent any information submitted is protected by the Privacy Act, that information would not be used or disclosed except as permitted under the Privacy Act. The United States will not file your social security number in any public document.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have questions about the status of your claim for relief, please contact the Claims Administrator by toll-free telephone at (866) 297-7120, or by email at questions@FDNYlitigation.com.

If you have additional questions, call the Department of Justice at (800) 556-1950, select mailbox option number 7, and leave a message.

If you have questions regarding the Plaintiffs-Intervenors' claims, call the Plaintiffs-Intervenors at (212) 627-8100.

Please do not contact the court for information about this case. Court personnel will not be able to answer any questions about your eligibility for relief or the process of obtaining relief.

III. Compensatory Damages Questions (for black claimants only)

What kinds of relief may be available (in addition to priority hire, back pay, and lost fringe benefits)?

If you are a black claimant and were found eligible for relief in this case, you had an opportunity to request additional compensation for harms that resulted from your not being appointed as an FDNY firefighter. However, the deadline for submitting a compensatory damages claim form has passed, and no new claim forms will be accepted.

The Court has ordered that compensatory damages (also known as noneconomic damages) be awarded to black claimants who could show that they suffered any of the following as the result of the City's failure to hire them as a firefighter:

  • Concrete emotional harm, potentially including depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, humiliation or shame;
  • Inconvenience, such as being unemployed for some time or having to take a particularly inconvenient job or combination of jobs;
  • No longer being able to take part in an activity or activities that they previously enjoyed before experiencing the City's discrimination;
  • Damage to their personal or professional reputation that has affected their future earning capacity;
  • Certain other injuries that arose from the City's denial of the firefighter job based upon a black applicant's test score.

If I am a black claimant, how can I submit a claim for compensatory damages?

The deadline to submit a claim for compensatory damages has passed, and no new claim forms will be accepted.

What are the next steps once I submit my claim for compensatory damages?

If you submitted a Compensatory Damages Claim Form, the City will be making you a monetary offer to resolve your claim. If you are represented by an attorney, the offer from the City will be sent to your attorney. These offers may not be made for several weeks, and they will be mailed as well as uploaded to your Claimant Portal. The City's offer will explain how much time you have to respond to the offer and other instructions for responding.

If you do not accept the City's offer, the City will take discovery related to your claim (meaning you will be required to provide documents to the City to support your claim for damages, and the City may question you and the other witnesses you identified, if any). You might also be required to present your case at a hearing in front of a Special Master.

If you fail to respond to the City's settlement offer and also fail to cooperate with the discovery process, the City will ask the Court to dismiss your claim for compensatory damages.

The deadline for submitting Compensatory Damages Claim Forms has passed. No more claim forms will be accepted.

Are compensatory damages separate from any back pay award?

Yes. You may be eligible for back pay even if you do not file a claim for compensatory damages. Your eligibility for back pay is not affected by whether you file a claim for compensatory damages.

Are compensatory damages separate from priority hiring relief?

Yes. Your eligibility for priority hiring relief is not affected by whether you file a claim for compensatory damages. You may be eligible for priority hire even if you do not file a claim for compensatory damages. Filing a claim for compensatory damages does not make you ineligible for priority hire.

Why are Hispanic applicants not able to claim compensatory damages?

This case began with the United States Department of Justice filing a complaint against New York City, alleging that the City's use of certain firefighter exams disproportionately excluded black and Hispanic applicants from the FDNY. Compensatory damages are not available under the claims brought by the United States. The Vulcan Society - the association of black firefighters within the FDNY - and three individual applicants (called the "intervenors") later joined the case on behalf of black applicants. The intervenors joined the DOJ's original claims, and also made specific requests of their own, including compensatory damages. No group similar to the Vulcan Society joined the case on behalf of Hispanic applicants. As a result, compensatory damages are available only for black applicants.

IV. Settlement Questions

What does it mean that an "agreement in principle" has been reached to settle this case?

The parties to this lawsuit (the United States, the Vulcan Society and several class representatives, and the City of New York) have reached an agreement in principle to settle this case, including the total amount of money that the City of New York will pay to eligible claimants. The parties are currently working on the details of the proposed settlement. Once the details have been worked out, eligible claimants will be notified, and the Court will hold a fairness hearing to consider whether to approve the proposed settlement.

If the Court approves the proposed settlement, claimants who were already determined by the Court to be eligible for relief will be entitled to money as a result of the settlement. The parties have proposed to settle the back pay and fringe benefits claims for approximately $98 million, which will be divided among eligible claimants in a manner yet to be determined. In addition, eligible black claimants who submitted a compensatory damages claim form by the February 18 deadline may also be offered a separate amount by the City to settle their compensatory damages claims, based on a claim raised by the Plaintiffs-Intervenors.

As of now, the parties cannot predict when claimants will receive their settlement awards or precisely how much money each claimant will receive. However, the parties anticipate that the settlement will be faster and less burdensome on claimants than if the case had not settled and continued with the litigated claims process. The parties are currently drafting a timeline for the Court's approval and will update eligible claimants once the Court has approved the timeline.

When will I receive my monetary award?

If the Court already decided that you are eligible for relief, you will be entitled to money as a result of the proposed settlement. However, we do not yet know when money will be distributed because the parties are currently working on the details of the proposed settlement. Once the parties have worked out the details of the proposed settlement - including when and how the settlement funds will be distributed among eligible claimants - eligible claimants will be notified, and the Court will hold a fairness hearing to consider whether to approve the proposed settlement. In any case, the parties anticipate that the settlement will be faster and less burdensome on claimants than if the case had not settled.

How are monetary awards being calculated, and do you know the amount of my award?

If the Court already decided that you are eligible for relief, you will be entitled to money as a result of the proposed settlement. However, we do not yet know how much you will receive because the parties are currently working on the details of the proposed settlement. Once the parties have worked out the details of the proposed settlement - including when and how the settlement will be distributed among eligible claimants - eligible claimants will be notified, and the Court will hold a fairness hearing to consider whether to approve the proposed settlement.

How can I join this lawsuit and receive money from the proposed settlement?

The only people who were eligible for relief were those black and Hispanic applicants who took Exam 7029 in 1999 and/or Exam 2043 in 2002 who met the eligibility criteria set by the Court. If you did not take one of those exams, you are not eligible for relief.

If you did take one of those exams, and if you are not already part of the lawsuit, it is too late to join now. In order to receive money from the proposed settlement, you must have already submitted a claim form seeking relief and the Court must have already decided that you are eligible for relief. If you have not submitted a claim form, the deadline to return claim forms has passed, and no additional claim forms will be considered by the Court.

I submitted a claim form seeking priority hiring relief. How does the proposed settlement affect my pursuit of priority hiring relief?

The parties' proposed settlement does not affect your claim for priority hiring relief. For example, if you have already been hired as a priority hire, this settlement does not affect your employment with the FDNY. Similarly, if the Court found you eligible for priority hiring relief and you are undergoing processing for appointment with the FDNY, your processing is not affected by this settlement.

If you have additional questions about the priority hiring process, you may contact the U.S. Department of Justice via email at fdnycase@usdoj.gov or by calling (800) 556-1950, selecting mailbox option number 7, and leaving a detailed message. Black claimants who sought priority hiring relief may also contact Levy Ratner at (212) 627-8100.

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