Skip top navigation Skip to content

Print   Email  Share


Jacksonville Firefighters’ Union Sued By EEOC for Race Discrimination

Union  Negotiated a Discriminatory Promotional Process, Federal Agency Charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville  Association of Firefighters (Local 122 of the International Association of Fire Fighters) engaged in intentional  discrimination when it negotiated a racially discriminatory promotional process  in the City of Jacksonville, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Case  No. 3:12-cv-00491-MMH-TEM, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District  of Florida), the City of Jacksonville’s written examinations for the promotion  of firefighters to four ranks – engineer, lieutenant (suppression), captain  (suppression), and district chief (suppression) – have a disparate impact on  African-American candidates, and are not job-related or consistent with business  necessity. Further, the EEOC said, the  union is liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it  negotiated in favor of such tests through the collective bargaining process,  despite knowing that the tests have a disproportionately adverse impact on black  test takers.

“Labor unions are not beyond the  reach of Title VII,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its  own Title VII lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville, and our companion lawsuit  against the union pursues enforcement of the law against an equally important  entity that we believe has perpetuated a discriminatory process.”

Robert E. Weisberg, the EEOC’s  regional attorney for Miami, said, “The union’s insistence on maintaining the  current promotional process has deprived many qualified African-Americans of  promotional opportunities. We hope this  lawsuit sends a clear message: Unions have  a responsibility to oppose, not acquiesce in, racially discriminatory  employment practices.”

EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru  first filed a charge of discrimination against the union in February 2008. After conducting an investigation into the charge,  the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the union had discriminated  against black firefighters with respect to the promotional process.

The EEOC filed suit against the  union after first investigating and, subsequently, attempting to reach a  pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The  agency seeks a court order that would prohibit the union from advocating in  favor of a new collective bargaining agreement that includes use of the  challenged tests. The EEOC is also  asking the court to order the union to provide compensatory and punitive  damages.

The U.S. Department of Justice -- which  has responsibility for suing state and local governments for violations of  Title VII -- filed suit against the city on April 23, 2012 (Case No. 3:12-cv-00451-TJC-MCR,  filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida), alleging a  pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African-Americans in  its Fire and Rescue Department with respect to promotions.

EEOC’s District Director Malcolm S.  Medley said, “This step represents the EEOC’s continued efforts to address the  union’s involvement in a discriminatory process.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws  prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site  at