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CFD to add 111 black firefighters

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A court order is giving compensation to thousands of African-Americans who were not given the chance to become Chicago firefighters.

It follows a lawsuit filed over a test that was found to be discriminatory. The court order ends a legal battle that's lasted more than a dozen years.

The city has also been ordered to hire more than 100 black applicants who passed the fire department exam in 1995. The ruling mandated that retroactive pension contributions be made for them. Up to 6,000 others will split $30 million.

It will be weeks before applicants are contacted-- and longer before qualified applicants get job offers.

Some of those involved shared their perspectives with ABC7, saying, "It has been a long time coming."

Firefighters in the City of Chicago have to go through rigorous training and pass several tests. In May, a judge found that a 1995 test discriminated against African-Americans.

A judge's order Wednesday outlines how the city will rectify the situation by hiring 111 African-Americans.

"It's definitely a huge victory," said Greg Boggs of the African-American Firefighters and Paramedics League. "We're really happy about this, although it's bittersweet that is took 16 years for it to take place."

One African-American man who did not want to be identified says his dream was to be a firefighter. He says he passed the 1995 test but was never able to advance.

"Disheartening. Very hard to swallow," the man said, "especially when they say, 'Take the test, pass the test and you'll get your chance.' Never got that chance."

The man, who is now a father and business owner, says he is still willing to pursue a career as a firefighter.

"I thought of the job as something to give back to the community," the man said, "along with making a decent living. Now, going forward, it's really all about making sure this doesn't happen again."

Boggs said he too took the 1995 test. His extra points for military service put him above the arbitrary cutoff.

Boggs is looking forward to a more diverse department.

"The 111 is a start in the right direction," Boggs said. "So the people that are still interested in the job, they will have the opportunity to go forward and be given the chance they weren't given 15 years ago."

The spokeswomen for the City of Chicago's legal department says the city will send out cards in the next three weeks to see who is interested in pursuing a job. Per the judge's order, offers to advance in the hiring process must be made within 70 days. Those who are not offered jobs are eligible for an approximate $5,000 settlement.

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