Published On: Tue, May 1st, 2012

Jacksonville Firefighters’ Union Sued By EEOC for Race Discrimination

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters (Local 122 of the International Association of Fire Fighters) engaged in intentional discrimination when it negotiated a racially discriminatory promotional process  in the City of Jacksonville, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the City of Jacksonville’s written examinations for the promotion of firefighters to four ranks – engineer, lieutenant (suppression), captain (suppression), and district chief (suppression) – have a disparate impact on African-American candidates, and are not job-related or consistent with business necessity. Furthermore, the EEOC said, the union is liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it negotiated in favor of such tests through the collective bargaining process, despite knowing that the tests have a disproportionately adverse impact on black test takers.

“Labor unions are not beyond the reach of Title VII,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its own Title VII lawsuit against the City of Jacksonville, and our companion lawsuit against the union pursues enforcement of the law against an equally important entity that we believe has perpetuated a discriminatory process.”

Robert E. Weisberg, the EEOC’s regional attorney for Miami, said, “The union’s insistence on maintaining the current promotional process has deprived many qualified African-Americans of  promotional opportunities. We hope this lawsuit sends a clear message: Unions have a responsibility to oppose, not acquiesce in, racially discriminatory employment practices.”

EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru first filed a charge of discrimination against the union in February 2008. After conducting an investigation into the charge, the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the union had discriminated against black firefighters with respect to the promotional process.

The EEOC filed suit against the union after first investigating and, subsequently, attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks a court order that would prohibit the union from advocating in favor of a new collective bargaining agreement that includes use of the challenged tests. The EEOC is also asking the court to order the union to provide compensatory and punitive damages.

The U.S. Department of Justice — which has responsibility for suing state and local governments for violations of Title VII — filed suit against the city on April 23, 2012 (Case No. 3:12-cv-00451-TJC-MCR, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida), alleging a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against African-Americans in  its Fire and Rescue Department with respect to promotions.

EEOC’s District Director Malcolm S.  Medley said, “This step represents the EEOC’s continued efforts to address the union’s involvement in a discriminatory process.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at

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