2012-09-28 / Top Stories

Garaufis To Hear Disgruntled Applicants

FD Ends ‘Friends And Family’ Hiring
By Howard Schwach

The federal judge who ruled that the city’s fire department discriminated against minority hires will soon begin listening to 775 minority candidates who did not make the cut to become firefighters.

Beginning October 1, a “fairness hearing” in Garaufis’ Brooklyn courtroom will give each of those 775 people two minutes to convince him that they were indeed discriminated against.

“I am going to listen to all the objections,” Garaufis told attorneys for the Vulcan Society, the society for black firefighters, as well as attorneys for both the city and the federal justice department. “We will start at 9 a.m. and break for lunch and dinner.

The 775 that will speak out are about a third of the 2,617 minority candidates who took the test but were not hired. Those who did not sign up to speak can still have a chance to tell the judge their story if “there is time” after the 775 have been heard.

There are three possible remedies available to resolve the cases of those who, after the fairness hearings, Garaufis believes have been wronged.

The first is to assign seniority rights to those who eventually were hired; to award back pay to victims who were not hired and to give priority hiring rights to 293 black and Latino candidates who took the latest exam.

The judge could also order compensation for those who were proven to have been discriminated against.

In addition to the fairness hearings, the fire department has sent out a memorandum to all of its members promising punishment for any member of the FDNY who calls the recruitment section to push for the hiring of a friend or relative.

There is a tradition in the fire department of generations of one family serving as firefighters with some families having grandfathers, fathers and sons all serving or having served in the FDNY.

That process was one of the things that brought Garaufis to the conclusion that there is an “old boy network” in the department that excludes minorities, experts say.

Now, as of September 13, members of the FDNY may not contact the recruiting bureau on anything but official business.

“What happened, was somebody called and something else was overlooked because it was a friend or relative involved,” an insider said. “If you’re black or Hispanic, you’re much less likely to have the same hook in the department as a white applicant.”

The new directive is expected to level the playing field for those who do not have friends or relatives in the department,” the insider said.

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