For the second time in two years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on whether a fire department's personnel practices violate civil rights law. In the latest case, the court ruled that discrimination claims by 6,000 minority applicants for firefighter positions with the Chicago, IL, Fire...
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While this may seem to be little more than a technical legal decision that addresses procedural issues, it has potentially enormous implications for fire departments nationwide. This decision gives an important tool to groups that seek greater employment opportunities for minority groups. It imposes a practical mandate on fire department leadership to carefully review existing personnel policies and their application. Departments must ensure that even longstanding practices are not having a disparate impact upon minority personnel, since they will now be subject to disparate impact lawsuits for practices they have used regularly for many years.
STEVE BLACKISTONE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a Maryland attorney who directs state and local liaison activities for an agency of the federal government. Prior to his current position, he served in a variety of posts on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives, working both on the personal staffs of members of Congress and on congressional committees. Blackistone also is a volunteer EMT/firefighter with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, MD.