Twelve white American firefighters win $2.5m race discrimination payout after losing out on promotions to black colleagues
By JR on Sunday, February 12, 2012
Twelve white firefighters have been given more than $2.5 million from the city of Buffalo after they sued the fire department not awarding them promotions they had been expecting.
The men alleged the fire department illegally allowed promotional lists on which they were named to expire so they could promote African-American firefighters instead.
The payouts were based on the level their promotions would have afforded them ranging from $49,000 (£31,000) to $500,000 (£317,000). Emotional damages were also considered, ranging from $20,000 (£12,000) to $30,000 (£19,000) reported NBC affiliate WGRZ.com.
Two men who received the largest awards were selected for promotion to lieutenant late in 2005 by the fire commissioner, and again in early 2006 by a new fire commissioner.
'They had been working 10 or 12 years by 2006. So the judge looked at what their prospective promotions would have been, and ruled that it was likely they would have made battalion commander' an attorney representing the plaintiffs, Andrew Fleming, told msnbc.com. The pair were each given $500,000 based on the judge's calculations, he said.
The ruling of compensation was made by state Supreme Court Justice John Michalek. Fifteen months earlier he made the the initial ruling that Buffalo had illegally failed to promote the firefighters because of racial discrimination
Sleeplessness, marital strain, and depression are all cited in the emotional distress that the men experienced over the past several years.
To be considered for a promotion,firefighters take a promotional eligibility exam, which is designed to test the skills they would need to serve as a lieutenant, captain, or other higher-ranking position in the fire department.
The men alleged they had scored well on their exams, but were passed over for promotions because the city wanted to give minorities, who had not performed as well a chance to fill those positions. 'The word that kept coming up was betrayal,' Mr Fleming said. 'They really felt betrayed by the city.'
Anthony Hynes, a 13th firefighter listed in the suit, failed to receive a payout because there was not enough evidence to support his claim, according to the court.
A spokesman for Buffalo told WGRZ.com that officials are reviewing the decision, and the city may appeal the ruling. Lawyers for the city said they disagreed with the judge's ruling on how much the firefighters should be paid. 'The city, at all times, acted under its rights under federal law,' Attorney Adam Perry told BuffaloNews.com.
'The city has maintained its position that the liability determination made by Justice Michalek was erroneous and should be reversed on appeal.'