Lawsuit challenges civil service exams
Black applicants say test is unfair
By Matt Viser, Globe Correspondent | February 5, 2005
Four black men who were rejected for jobs by the Lynn Fire Department have filed a lawsuit against the city and the state's Human Resources Division alleging that the exam used for hiring firefighters in Massachusetts is unconstitutional.
The nine-page lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Boston, adds a wrinkle to the debate over 30-year-old court-ordered affirmative-action policies by questioning whether the state's emphasis on Civil Service exams is making it more difficult for minorities to get jobs. The suit could change the way that police and fire departments throughout the state make their hiring decisions.
The suit is being litigated by the same firm that recently won lawsuits against the Boston police and fire departments and forced the city to abandon its race-based hiring practices. A similar lawsuit was filed in December against the Newton Fire Department because it has continued to hire based on race even though it has met parity with the community.
"Our office has been involved in ending these quota systems," said Harold L. Lichten, one of the attorneys involved in the case. "But by doing that, the question becomes what comes after these quota systems? After they're struck down, how do you ensure fairness in hiring so that minorities are represented in their communities?"
Lynn, like many large cities in Massachusetts, has become increasingly diverse, and the police and fire departments have struggled to keep up with the demographic shifts. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the city of 89,000 nearly doubled.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, another lawyer prosecuting the case, said blacks and Hispanics constitute 8 percent of the 179-member Lynn Fire Department, while they make up 29 percent of the city's overall population.
Lynn was one of dozens of cities and towns placed under a federal court order in the 1970s to improve minority hiring in fire and police departments. In November, a federal judge ruled that the Boston Police Department could no longer follow its policy of hiring one black or Hispanic firefighter for every white firefighter, because it had achieved racial parity at the entry level. A similar ruling in 2003 by a federal appeals court found that the Boston Fire Department had also achieved racial balance and must abandon its affirmative-action hiring policy. The Lynn Fire Department was removed from that decree list in the early 1990s. Its Police Department was removed in 1988.
Lynn's fire chief, Edward F. Higgins Jr., said his hands are tied by the state's civil service laws in hiring more minorities. He said there is a need in Lynn for more Spanish-speaking firefighters, but there's no mechanism for him to hire them under the current guidelines.
"Diversity is an absolute must in this day and age. But we can only hire in the confines of the civil service list," he said.
Under the state's civil service laws, applicants for police and fire positions must take a 100-question multiple-choice exam. The state then provides a list to cities and towns that ranks the applicants in order of how they scored.
The suit argues that using that method makes it more difficult for minorities to be considered since they typically have lower test scores. Lichten said that 69 percent of white applicants scored a 90 or above on the test in 2000, compared with 33 percent of minority candidates.
Lichten argues that a pass-fail test that judges competency would be more equitable. "We're not asking that they re-impose the quota system," Lichten said. "The key is to develop a hiring system that ensures that the best candidates are hired."
The four plaintiffs in the suit took the civil service exam in 2001, scored between 84 and 94 out of 100, and then were in a pool of applicants who were considered for jobs between 2002 and 2004. During that time, about 20 firefighters were hired by the Lynn Fire Department, but none were minorities, according to the suit.
On a more recent exam, given in November, the plaintiffs scored between 70 and 94.
All four plaintiffs are Lynn residents and have "had a lifelong goal to become a firefighter," according to the suit.
"A firefighter and police officer, you don't have to get a 99," said Kevin Bradley, a black firefighter hired in Lynn 28 years ago under the consent decree. His two sons are among the plaintiffs. "There are other things that are important."
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02-05-2005, 04:34 PM #1
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
Another Massachusetts hiring lawsuit
02-05-2005, 06:09 PM #2"A firefighter and police officer, you don't have to get a 99," said Kevin Bradley, a black firefighter hired in Lynn 28 years ago under the consent decree. His two sons are among the plaintiffs. "There are other things that are important."
Hiring the best and the brightest..."The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
02-05-2005, 06:54 PM #3
One of my buddies in my FS class just got the card for an interview in Lynn.
I was thinking about listing Lynn as a city on my 3 choices for citys. They are a great department. But when I interned with thier arson team last spring I found one of thier contract requirement now and in the future would be residency.
Last edited by stm4710; 02-05-2005 at 06:58 PM.I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
02-05-2005, 07:25 PM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2001
- No. Providence R.I. : Land of the "How ya doins"
I've said it before and I'll say it again, you either make the grade or you don't. There should be no special treatment because of one's race, and is reverse discrimination to hire minorities above others who have scored higher. Best scores get the jobs, what is so hard to understand here. NOBODY IS OWED ANYTHING!!!!! Hard work gets you places, not race!!"I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we know the work which a fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling."
Edward F. Croker
Fire Dept. City of New York
HOOK N' CAN of the I.A.C.O.J.
02-05-2005, 07:59 PM #5Originally posted by PuffyNPFD
I've said it before and I'll say it again, you either make the grade or you don't. There should be no special treatment because of one's race, and is reverse discrimination to hire minorities above others who have scored higher. Best scores get the jobs, what is so hard to understand here. NOBODY IS OWED ANYTHING!!!!! Hard work gets you places, not race!!
DITTOFire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
08-11-2006, 01:09 PM #6
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- May 2005
- Lexington, MA
civil service massachusetts
In my mind the test requirements should be the same for everyone.
08-11-2006, 01:35 PM #7
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- Mar 2006
- Someplace you're not :)
I can't figure out how a person finds out they weren't hired because of their race, sexual orientation, sex?
Do they think just because they didn't get the job it was because of the way they look or act?
08-11-2006, 01:55 PM #8
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- Nov 2001
deleted by user
Last edited by superchef; 09-03-2007 at 11:39 PM.
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