Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it entered into a consent decree resolving its race discrimination lawsuit against a union representing firefighters. This is particularly ironic, given that unions hold themselves out as advocates for workers’ rights.
The 2012 lawsuit, EEOC v. Jacksonville Ass’n of Firefighters, Local 122, alleged that the union advocated for an illegal promotional process that had a disparate impact on African-American candidates for promotion. The consent decree also settled a companion race discrimination case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) for the department’s role in the promotional process. The consent decree requires the City of Jacksonville to develop a new promotional exam for the selection of certain positions, offer up to 40 promotions to qualified African-Americans, and establish a $4.9 million settlement fund for eligible promotion candidates – and (no surprise!) the union is not chipping in, despite its significant role in negotiating the unlawful promotional process.
One of the most striking facts about this case is the union’s initial intransigence after being put on notice that the promotional process it was advocating for may have been illegal. In 2006, the City of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Commission issued a report recommending changes to the JFRD promotional process. Two years later, the union received an EEOC Commissioner’s discrimination charge regarding the promotional process. Nevertheless, the union persisted in pushing the unlawful promotion process that ultimately led to the consent decree.
Just another example of unions behaving badly.