UPDATED: Chicago Ordered To Hire 111 Black Firefighters

UPDATED 08/17/11 6:31 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A bitter, 16-year-old battle about African-Americans who were passed over by the Chicago Fire Department was coming to an end on Wednesday.

Under a federal court order entered on Wednesday, the city must hire 111 African-Americans who passed a 1995 firefighters entrance exam.

The city must also pay $30 million in damages to some 6,000 black candidates who took and passed the test, but were not hired.

The order ends a federal lawsuit over the entrance exam, which a federal judge had ruled discriminated against black candidates.

But as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, another fight involving would-be firefighters could be brewing in Chicago. The ruling might be a victory for those passed-over candidates, but some future firefighters have a new concern: possible retaliation from the old guard.

A judge has ruled the 1995 hiring process unfairly eliminated most black candidates. Now, 111 of those candidates will get a second chance to join the Fire Department, if they can pass the physical abilities test, background check, drug test and medical exam.

“They’re excited. They’ve waited a long time. It’s been 15 years and they’ve all did what they were supposed to do in the beginning, they passed the test,” said Greg Boggs, president of the African-American Firefighters and Paramedics League of Chicago. “And so now they’re going to be given the opportunity that they should have been given 15 years ago.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Soon, 111 African-American men and women will find out if they’ve won the Chicago firefighter lottery. That’s how many firefighting jobs the city must fill from the pool of 6,000 black applicants who passed the test in 1995, but weren’t hired.

“We’re getting the jobs we lost and we’re getting the full back pay that was lost,” said attorney Joshua Karsh, who represented the black firefighter applicants.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city is putting a program in place to hire the 111 applicants, but wouldn’t say where the money would come from to pay the $30 million owed to the passed-over applicants.

“That’s a responsibility we’re gonna have as a city to deal with and I acknowledge that,” Emanuel said.

All of those involved in the lawsuit originally passed the firefighter test, but did not score high enough to be chosen for a coveted academy spot. That was part of the lawsuit.

Now that 111 will get the chance to fulfill that dream, one question is, can they handle the physical demands 16 years after passing the written exam?

“The ones who are still looking forward to taking the job, they have kept themselves in shape and they’re ready for it,” Boggs said.

“There should be no questions about their ability to do the job. Nobody’s getting this job who doesn’t pass the physical abilities test and doesn’t graduate from the Chicago Fire Academy,” Karsh said. “They are just like any other brand new firefighter in the Chicago Fire Department. The standards are not being changed.”

But that’s just the first step for the applicants. After that, when they report to work, they face potential hostility within the ranks of veteran firefighters.

Boggs acknowledged that some candidates were worried about the stigma of coming onto the job under the cloud of a court order stemming from a discrimination lawsuit. Some feared facing potential retaliation from current firefighters.

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said there is a zero-tolerance policy for harassment in the Fire Department and added that Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff has given the assurance that all 111 incoming firefighters will be treated fairly. Langford also said Hoff will make sure all chief officers enforce that policy.

This is not the only discrimination lawsuit the Fire Department is facing. Last month, Samantha Vasich, 27, filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status on behalf of women firefighter candidates, claiming the department’s physical ability test favors men.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Vasich’s attorney said the physical test used by the Chicago Fire Department is not related to actual firefighting, and is discriminatory.

The CFD test is composed mostly of “gym-type exercises,” such as arm lifts, leg lifts and endurance tests, according to a news release on the lawsuit. But in other cities such as New York and Los Angeles, the Candidate Physical Abilities Test consists of situations that simulate actual firefighting, involving wearing gear and a self-contained breathing apparatus, the release said.

  • JIm

    Imagine if you got awarded for every job you were qualified for and didn’t get for whatever reason there is to think of? Lawsuits would number in the billions. Imagine if you got awarded for every job you lost unfairly because someone from another group got it for quotas only? Imagine being looked over due to your age? It happens every day and goes unchecked. Imagine!

    • NWA

      And, what is your point? You want to go back too before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where African-Americans swept floors and never received promotions or better yet couldn’t get a foot in the door? Or, is that you think that Whites are better than any African-American?


      • Worthless

        I just want you to be swept under the rug NWA.

    • LOTD

      Great post Jim!!!! Especially this part – “unfairly because someone from another group got it for quotas only” FACT!!!!!!

  • John Lennon

    It’s easy…if you try.

  • willie

    White people are always getting over on us. I can’t wait until the tables are turned. President Obama is just the first step! I wish the the white males were as nice to us as their women are. :)

    • The Truth

      President Obama is white…being 50% white and 50% black is mulatto. Being provided for by rich white grandparents in Hawaii – well, maybe not white, but definitely not black. At least not the “black” that Chicago blacks know. Willie, don’t think for a second that you somehow contributed to / share in the success of Obama…he’s a millionaire politician…are you?

    • Jermain Williams

      White people aren’t getting over on you. These guys didn’t pass the test. Race had absolutely nothing to do with who was hired. The claim that the test was culturally biased is a load of BS, and everyone knows it. Your sexual inuendo shows us all your level of intelligence. Moron!

      • Jermain Williams

        @NWA, You are wrong, the test was fair. Basic skills everyone is expected to have to get hired. What possibly could have been unfair to a specific group?

      • NWA

        Do you know what disparate impact is? Plan and simple, the sh!t is unfair!


      • Lyndia

        Why is the white man suppose to be superior t o the black man? Level of intelligent you say? There must be a recess in the insane asylum for you to be out and sneaking on a computer.

    • LOTD

      I suppose it would’ve been fair if the test was worded in “ebonics”!!!!! You always want to be treated as equals, then stop looking for special privileges and treatment!!! BTW- I have lost contracts due to NOT being a minority or a woman. I know exactly how it feels to be discriminated against. I wish I had the support to sue for my losses!!!

  • Taxpayer

    This is actually the fault of white, lazy people that have allowed the rules to be written for years in such a way that encourages lawsuits and appoints judges that are sympathetic to the parsites on our society.

  • willie

    How do you know the test wasn’t biased? What do you know? It sure seems strange that all these brothers didn’t get positions. As usual white men stealing black jobs! You have no clue about what it’s like for a real brother..Jermain!

    • Jermain Williams

      From what I remember, there were also white guys who didn’t get hired either. Where’s their money? What is a black job anyway?

  • Just Axin

    NWA-The whole thing screams of racism. Blacks take a written test. Blacks don’t as well as whites. Blacks cry racism. Whites pay millions to have the test prepared to make it “minority friendly” but sadly, blacks still underpreformed. Whites feel guilty and policies are made to reward poor performance by blacks. What are you having trouble grasping?

    • NWA

      So, you don’t know what disparate impact is. If you don’t know what that is, than you are looking like a racist or, you are simply a racist!


      • NWA

        @Keeping it classy:

        No, in fact I earn my handouts and I’ll take them superciliously, Thank You!


      • Keeping it classy

        Just shut your mouth and be grateful for your handout.

    • Kelley

      I took the test in 95, I am a black woman, and my score was 92, I still have the letter. My male friend (white) at the time took the test with me, and scored an 84. He was called in for the physical, and I was not. He did not pass the physical. So I did not UNDERPREFORM. I passed and was not given the opportunity to continue on.

  • Just Axin

    Yes, I know what disp. impact is, but there are many laws (and theories) that are unjust. This is one of them. BTW, if I didn’t know what it meant, how would that mean that I am racist?

  • r a

    With all the stupdity in here to bad pakistan just doesn’t nuke the USA and put it out of it’s misery.

  • Just Axin

    NWA- And, any uneducated person might be relegated to sweeping floors. No black is denied an education; handouts galore exist. You might want to direct your anger towards the single mom and jailed father who erect obstacles that are difficult for their children to overcome.

    • NWA

      The White mothers or, the Black mothers? Which ones?


      • Jermain Williams

        The black mothers, dumb ass. Where have you been? Single mom and jailed father should have given it away.

  • Just Axin

    Any it applies to, though since were talking race, I’m sure you’re smart enough to know out-of-wedlock black pregnancy rates.

    • NWA

      As I said before, White mothers or, the Black mothers? You need to get a grip! White women don’t need you (White men) or, be married to have a child. And, some of those White men, children of the White mothers, go to jail. So, again which ones?


      • Karina

        Your right white women don’t need white men or to be married to have a child because they have an education and a job to support themselves… oh and they only have one kid not five.

  • Truth hurts

    The 70%ers of course knothead

  • Just Axin

    If you missed it, I said ANY uneducated person.

  • DJ

    blacks can’t get it on their own merits so they have to sue. chicago is quickly becoming like detroit, new orleans, etc. blacks haved turned those cities into toilets.

    • NWA



      • Hold on there!

        Hey NWA, easy there fearless. If hard working taxpayers move out, who is going to pay for all the handouts that you and your worthless folks enjoy?

      • NWA

        I crave male genitalia


      • Gary

        NWA, that is disgusting! Please keep that information to yourself. We are not interested in your peter puffin exploits!

      • LittleOldLady

        Mr.NWA, Please keep your disgusting preferences to yourself!!!

    • Jermain

      They have already done that to the south and west sides.

  • http://nubianstylez.net/?p=861 Today’s Links | Nubian Stylez

    […] Thousands Of African-American Would-Be Firefighters To Collect … Thousands of African-Americans passed over by the Chicago Fire Department will collect damages under a judgment that reportedly will be approved later Wednesday. […]

  • Taxpayer

    That atty Karsh is an opportunistic piece of sh!t. If he cared so much of the plight of the blacks who could not score high enough, did he forgo his atty fees? Why didn’t you see whites who didn’t score high find some basis on which to sue? If you are white and are upset after reading this article and you’ve never made any attempt to change affirm action rules, etc, this is YOUR FAULT!

  • dooinok

    Just what we need…..a court ordering the city to hire these people and pay judgements. Ole whitey being shafted again.

  • N.O.Y.B

    It must be really hard to sit behind a computer and spew racism….I feel for you people, I really do….After all these years justice has finally been served, Way to go!!!Although we have know for years the Fire Dept. and hiring proces has been racist…some of these posts give insght to that as well,unfortunately…

    • JB

      Learn how to spell, idiot.

      • N.O.Y.B

        Sadly that’s the most you got from that statement…2 typos?! lol
        Sorry but I’m unaffected by your ignorance :)

  • Saneme

    Are these 111 individuals that the Fire Department is told by the court to hire qualified?

    Doesn’t matter, they are Black that’s all that matters.

    How could a court possibly know more about firefighting and what is important in a candidate than the actual firefighters who put their lives on the line everyday who will now have count on people who couldn’t pass the entrance test.

    .But it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the person is Black.

    So now any person who wants a certain job and doesn’t qualifiy because he can’t pass the test, just gets a lawyer and sues to re-write the qualifications? If he is Black that is. No wonder there are so many incompetent employees everywhere you look in the US these days. Excellence is is a thing of the past, Even qualifications don’t count anymore. Only Race

    Doesn’t anyone see anything wrong with this?

    • Disgusted

      VERY well said!

    • N.O.Y.B

      Apparently you see something wrong with it,
      the only thing you keep quoting is that they are “black”
      and its obvious that’s what really bothers you the most,
      not that they were qualified and not chosen because they were “black”
      you are missing the big picture and I see something wrong with that

  • Just Axin

    NYOB-What you are chosing to ignore is that this whole issue is based on race (you must have missed the headline). Blacks didn’t score well and they sued. They relied on white guilt and stupidity to advance their cause and they won. The citizens of Chgo will not be better off because of this decision. This is another handout blacks will get that will further empower them. In the end, the blacks involved will benefit financially and everybody else will lose. If you cannot see anything wrong with that you are blind.

    • RET TS1

      You seem to ignore that this is the second time the Chicago Fire Dept has been found guilty of bias. In both cases a federal judge looked at the evidence and found Chicago guilty. Remember, the Police Dept was also found guilty of bias. Chicago has a history of bias. In my lifetime, the schools, the Park District, the Police Dept, the Fire Dept and City Hall hiring were all found in violation of thr law. An intelligent person would see a pattern here, if they were honest or unbiased.

  • Fed-UP

    The whole BLACK card is getting really old!!!!!!

    What about the people being put on hold because
    the 111 blacks cutting in line to become a firefighter
    I’m not black or white, this is just wrong……

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/08/25/firefighters-to-be-fired-for-padding-mileage-expenses/ Firefighters To Be Fired For Padding Mileage Expenses « CBS Chicago

    […] He believes the move to fire them is the city’s way to make room for last week’s court-ordered hiring of 111 black firefighter applicants. […]

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