Justice Department Settles Discrimination Lawsuit against City of Portsmouth

The Department of Justice announced recently that it has entered into a consent decree with the City of Portsmouth, Va., that, if approved by the court, will resolve the department's complaint that the City of Portsmouth engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against black Americans in its hiring of entry-level firefighters, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).

"The department commends the City of Portsmouth for working cooperatively to resolve this matter without contested litigation. We are pleased that Portsmouth has agreed to put in place new selection practices for firefighters that comply with Title VII, and to take necessary steps to provide relief to those African Americans who have been harmed by the city's hiring practices," said Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. "Ending employment practices that have a discriminatory impact on the basis of race is a significant priority of the department. This settlement sends a clear message that hiring practices with discriminatory impact on account of race will not be tolerated."

The consent decree requires that Portsmouth no longer administer the written examination challenged by the United States, and that it implement new selection procedures for entry-level firefighters that comply with Title VII.

Additionally, the consent decree requires the city to deposit $145,000 into a settlement fund that will be used to make awards of back pay to black Americans who were harmed by Portsmouth's use of the written examination and who are determined to be eligible for relief.

Black applicants determined to be eligible for relief under the consent decree may receive a priority offer of employment from Portsmouth, with retroactive seniority for all purposes except for time-in-grade required for promotion. The consent decree requires Portsmouth to hire up to 10 eligible black American claimants as firefighters. Under the consent decree, Portsmouth maintains the opportunity to screen the claimants eligible for consideration for priority hire to ensure that they otherwise meet the qualifications.

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