A recent article in the New York Times addresses allegations of employment discrimination made by ten black civilian (non-uniform) employees against the New York Fire Department.
The employees made the allegations against the fire department in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in August 2016. The contents of the complaint were made available to the public in October.
The black employees allege that the FDNY engaged in “a pattern and practice of systemic, ongoing, continuous and intentional discrimination,” including passing them over for raises and promotions given to white counterparts and subjecting them to unlawful retaliation.
Employment discrimination because of race is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). These laws make it clear that an employer may not make an employment decision or create/allow a hostile work environment because of an employee’s race. In particular circumstances, unintentional discrimination is also unlawful. For instance, a neutral policy that has a disparate impact on one race may violate the laws. The laws also forbid retaliation against an employee who refuses to participate in or tries to stop racial discrimination.
The complaint referenced above alleges that discrimination by the FDNY against black civilian employees is common, even pervasive. The allegations state there is “a continual, widespread pattern of workplace harassment and a hostile work environment based upon overt and subtle forms of discrimination.”
There are several examples in the complaint of pay disparities based on race. It states that specifically that the fire department has “a dual salary system in which Blacks are hired at lower salaries than Whites, and in which Blacks are denied discretionary salary increases, and black managers are paid at a lower salary level than white clerical employees.”
For instance, the New York Times reports, that one black employee was given a title of Director and received a raise from 48,500 to 56,000 while a non-black colleague who was also named a Director received a raise from 50,000 to 80,000. Another black employee alleged that her supervisor recommended increases of 4 percent to her staff but that she got no raise while her white co-workers did. Still another black employee named in the complaint who has worked for the fire department for 41 years stated that she has seen at least three white male managers hired after her in the same civil service title, earning more money than she is.
The EEOC complaint also contains accounts by employees demonstrating that after reporting harassment, they experienced retaliation by their supervisors at the FDNY. One worker alleges that when he asked to transfer units because of racial harassment by his supervisor, the FDNY demoted him in retaliation.
What the complaint seeks is primarily “a change in the institutional racism that is over there at the F.D.N.Y.” The request for remedies includes appointing a monitor to propose a desegregation plan and the adoption of an equal pay policy.
As for the response, Fire Department officials said that they would “treat the complaint seriously and that the commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro, had worked hard to ensure that the department treated all employees equitably.”
Time will tell how this matter gets resolved, but it illustrates just some of the ways employees face racial discrimination in the workplace. If you think you are being treated differently by your employer or co-workers because of your race, contact the employment discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown. If you have experienced any of the following, give Leeds Brown a call.
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