Connecticut Firefighters Settle Reverse Discrimination Suit For $2 Million

Originally published on July 28, 2011 1:14 pm

Twenty white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., have settled their reverse discrimination case with the city for $2 million in back pay, additional pension benefits and interest. The city will also cough up about $3 million to cover the firefighters' legal costs.

The Hartford Courant explains the how the case came to court:

"The firefighters sued New Haven in 2004, a year after the city refused to certify the results of an examination on which only white candidates for the positions of captain and lieutenant scored high enough to qualify for promotion."

"The city gave the test to 118 candidates, 27 of whom were black. None of the black candidates scored high enough to qualify for the 15 immediately available positions. All 20 of the plaintiffs qualified. After a series of raucous meetings, the city civil service board decided to scrap the test results and promote no one."

The case ended up going all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in favor of the firefighters. The case then returned to the lower courts to sort out the issue of damages. A trial on that issue was set to begin on Aug. 26.

The New Haven Register reports that the city wanted to avoid more time in court:

"A statement put out by the city Wednesday says settlement allows the city to 'avoid the cost and uncertainty of further litigation that had been scheduled to commence in Federal District Court later this summer.' The settlement award will be paid for from the city's budgeted public liability accounts, $4 million that was set aside in the fund balance for this case and insurance proceeds."

The irony of the case is that it started with the fear of a lawsuit, just not the one that came its way, as the AP reports:

"New Haven officials said they were worried at the time about a lawsuit from black firefighters after only two of 50 minority candidates would have been eligible for promotion based on the test results. After the Supreme Court ruling, the city certified the exam results and promoted everyone who would have been promoted if the exams had been certified in the first place."

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