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Lawsuits & Litigation

Group of White Firefighters Sue Cleveland FD Over Alleged Racial Discrimination

— January 15, 2020

The Cleveland Division of Fire recently found itself in a spot of legal trouble when 24 fire lieutenants decided to file a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.

White firefighters from the Cleveland Division of Fire filed a lawsuit with the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts back in December alleging they were racially discriminated against and passed over for promotions. The suit itself was filed by 24 fire lieutenants and states they were “discriminated against on the basis of race during the city’s promotional examination process for the fire captain position in 2017.” Five of those lieutenants took even took their allegations to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Downtown Cleveland as viewed from Edgewater Park
Downtown Cleveland as viewed from Edgewater Park; image courtesy of Censusdata via the English Wikipedia,

What happened, exactly? How were the lieutenants discriminated against? For starters, the group of white firefighters took a promotional exam for the rank of captain along with African American individuals and individuals of unknown race. The exam had multiple parts to it, including a written and oral portion. However, the exam was described by some as “not content-valid and not entirely representative of or correlated to the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the duties of the job of Captain.”

According to the suit, 66 people completed the exam. Of the 66 people, 14 were African American, 49 were white and three were of an unknown race. The suit claims that “57.14 percent of the 14 black candidates who completed the exam were promoted to captain (eight individuals), compared to 26.53 percent of the white candidates who completes the exam and were promoted to captain (13 individuals).” Furthermore, the suit argues that “since the selection rate for white candidates is significantly less than 80 percent, it violates the Four Fifths Rule adopted by the federal government in 1978.” It states:

As a direct and proximate result of the City’s discriminatory conduct as described above, Plaintiffs have suffered, and will continue to suffer, economic and emotional harm, as well as harm to their careers.”

The plaintiffs also pointed out in the lawsuit that their discrimination came after the city was accused of discriminating against minorities, including women, Hispanic, and African American firefighters during the hiring process. Because of that, the lawsuit argues the plaintiffs were discriminated against because the Cleveland Division of Fire was attempting to remedy the alleged discrimination against minorities.

As a result of the alleged discrimination, the 24 lieutenants are “seeking an injunction against the Cleveland Division of Fire prohibiting the administration of any future discriminatory promotional exams.” Additionally, they are seeking benefits, back pay, and compensatory damages for “pain and suffering, emotional anguish and distress, and attorney fees,” according to the suit.


24 white fire lieutenants file lawsuit claiming Cleveland FD discriminated against them when promoting

White Cleveland Fire lieutenants say city discriminated against them when issuing promotions

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