FDNY Race Discrimination Litigation

In December 2017, Mehri & Skalet, along with co-counsel Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of African American New York Fire Department civilian employees and rejected applicants for civilian positions. The plaintiffs claim a pattern of racial discrimination that cost the applicants employment at FDNY and resulted in employees receiving fewer promotions and lower wages than their white counterparts. The complaint seeks a number of remedies, including requiring the FDNY to plan to increase black representation in the department and adjusting pay of black employees that are underpaid. In September 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Oetken of the Southern District of New York denied a motion to dismiss, saying that the case carries merit due to statistical evidence presented. A copy of Judge Oetken’s order can be found here. A motion for class certification was filed in May 2020, and is now fully briefed; a decision from Judge Oetken is pending.

Media coverage of the case includes:

  • The New York Times, “Black Employees Accuse Fire Department of Discrimination”
  • Associated Press, “New York fire department faces another discrimination case”
  • New York Daily News, “Black employees sue FDNY for not putting out racism ‘disease’”
  • ABC7NY, “Lawsuit filed against FDNY claiming race discrimination
  • AM NY, “FDNY discriminates against black employees, passing them over for raises and promotions, lawsuit says”
  • CBS NY VIDEO, “Another Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against FDNY”
  • The Amsterdam News, “Civilian FDNY employees file discrimination lawsuit”

On May 1, 2020, Mehri & Skalet, along with co-counsel Valli Kane & Vagnini LLP, launched another racial discrimination class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the City of New York, this time on behalf of New York City Fire Protection Inspectors and Associate Fire Protection Inspectors (FPIs) and their union, AFCSME District Council 37 Local 2507. The FPIs claim that for over a decade they have been paid substantially less each year than New York City’s building inspectors who work for the Department of Buildings. The pay gap steadily increased over the years—in 2019, the salary gap was about $9,000 per year on average. The FPIs allege that the pay difference arises because only about 30% of the FPIs are white whereas about 50% of the building inspectors are white. The pay gap cannot be explained by differences in their jobs, according to the FPIs, who contend that the job requirements and duties of the two types of jobs are similar and that FPI jobs are physically riskier. They also allege that the discrimination is part of a pattern of racial discrimination by the Fire Department of New York.

The complaint can be viewed here.

Mehri & Skalet’s press release regarding the filing of the lawsuit can be found here.

Media coverage of the case includes:

  • New York Daily News, “FDNY fire inspectors sue over salaries, lack of protective gear during coronavirus pandemic”
  • The Chief Leader, “Fire Protection Inspectors Sue City, Cite Pay Gap With Buildings Staff”