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Black Employees Sue Fire Department Over ‘Disease’ Of Racism

A group of black employees with the New York Fire Department sued their employer, alleging the department did not properly taking care of racism within its ranks.

The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed Friday, accused the fire department of discriminating against black employees over the years by not promoting them with the same frequency as their white colleagues and paying them less, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

“We want to change the entire DNA so that 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,” lawyer Cyrus Mehri said at a press conference.

So far seven employees are named in the lawsuit, though Mehri said he plans to ask the judge to give the lawsuit class action status so other civilian FDNY employees and emergency medical services workers can join the complaint. Firefighters with the department are not included in the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs in the suit allege the department paid minority workers 62 percent of what their white colleagues were making and the department doesn’t hire many people of color to begin with.

“I’ve been an employee of the New York City Fire Department for almost 30 years,” Stephanie Thomas, a plaintiff, told CBS New York. “Came in as a civilian, civil service. Took a test, passed it. To this day I’m still level one.”

The lawsuit wants an outside task force to keep track of the department, better payment for black people who are paid less, and have the FDNY come up with a plan to hire more black people. The fire department already paid out $98 million for a similar lawsuit filed four years alleging discrimination in hiring practices.

“These allegations are not new,” said Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci. “The parties have been discussing the issues raised in this complaint for some time.”

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