JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the city's Fire Department engaged in employment discrimination against blacks seeking promotions.
The federal government's three-year investigation into promotional practices by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department determined "the city has engaged in a pattern of practice of employment discrimination against African Americans on the basis of their race."
The Justice Department found that black candidates passed examinations for lieutenant, captain and district chief at a lower rate than whites, and those minority candidates who did pass were rarely promoted because their scores were lower and JFRD promotes based on the highest scores.
"This complaint should send a clear message to all public employers that employment practices that have the effect of excluding qualified candidates on account of race will not be tolerated," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "At best, these tests measure only a slice of what is necessary to be a supervisor, but they stand in the way of qualified African Americans advancing in the Fire Department. The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole."
Channel 4 has asked the city for its response to the federal lawsuit. Monday before the suit was filed, Mayor Alvin Brown spoke about the federal discrimination investigation.
"Like anything else, there's always challenges, but I see opportunity to make sure whatever it is, we'll fix it," Brown said. "I don't want to indict the whole Fire Department. Like any organization, any institution, you're going to have your challenges."
On Friday, General Counsel Cindy Laquidara told Channel 4 she does not believe the city discriminates, but said there are some problems in the Fire Department that need to be dealt with.
"Clearly, there is some communication issues at a minimum between people in the Fire Department," Laquidara said. "We are addressing that."
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