Florida Minority Firefighters File Lawsuit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --

Claims of racial discrimination within the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department are heating up again.

Twenty-four minority firefighters have filed a class action lawsuit saying the promotional process is still discriminatory. They said the testing is biased and needs to go.

"It's not a very good promotional system. It does not test the things that have to be tested for, the knowledge and the skills for people to go up the ranks," the firefighters' attorney, Dennis Thompson, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "So what you got is a testing system that is not adequate, is insignificant and is discriminatory."

The federal government also said JFRD discriminates. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fired off a letter two years ago to the city of Jacksonville that said, "Employment practices with JFRD are discriminatory towards African-Americans in regards to hiring, promotion, assignment, transfer, discipline and discharges." The letter said JFRD created a racially hostile work environment.

As a result of that letter and threatening lawsuits by several groups, the city and the feds, along with attorneys, have been in mediation for two years trying to resolve these issues. It's been stalled, and attorneys hope this new suit will get the fire burning again.

What the firefighters who have filed suit are looking for is to toss out the current promotion testing and get back-pay and promotions, which they said they were denied. They also said they want the fire union to back off negotiating testing policies.

"There are no experts in testing with the unions, and yet they are negotiating this stuff," Thompson said. "They have no idea what they are talking about."

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