Several civilian employees of the FDNY and an EMS worker have filed suit against the department for discriminatory hiring, compensation and promotion practices.
The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, accuses the FDNY of denying pay raises and promotions to black employees. The suit names seven plaintiffs, and comes just over a year after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I’ve watched people come in over the years, hired at a higher level coming into the door, no proven record, just a resume,” said Stephanie Thomas, a plaintiff who has worked as a computer specialist for more than 29 years. “One of the things that emotionally bothers me and disappoints me as an employee is that they have firsthand information about my ability through what I’ve produced, through credentials, through awards over the years, and still they turn a blind eye.”
Thomas said she has only been evaluated three times in nearly three decades and has never been promoted.
“It’s supposed to be your ability, your performance,” she said. “But I’ve watched white females come in the door and they are given the opportunity to go up the ranks, to be managers, and I’m not.”
Fellow plaintiff Annette Richardson has worked for the FDNY since 2006 and has been a director in human resources since 2009. Following her promotion eight years ago, she said she was offered a salary of $69,000 — $23,000 less than her white male predecessor. She has since received two 8 percent raises, including about a month ago, as she said her responsibilities have increased.
“I’m frustrated, I’m deeply disappointed, and I’ve been disillusioned . . . most of the African-Americans within the fire department are experiencing these same types of situations,” she said. “I’m just here for justice for myself, justice for my counterparts.”
The suit will seek compensation, including back pay, but does not specify an amount in damages, said Cyrus Mehri, lead counsel on the suit. The suit is also asking for several departmental changes, including the appointment of an outside monitor or task force, and the creation of a court-approved plan to increase the representation of blacks in civilian positions in which they are racially underrepresented.
A representative for the FDNY did not respond to a request for comment.
“This begins a journey today,” Mehri said. “We are on a mission to bring about cultural change at the FDNY. We want to change the entire DNA so it becomes a place where people rise up based on merit, it becomes a place where people are paid fairly, it becomes a place of equal opportunity.”