NAACP Files Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Against North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue

April 13, 2007

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the Newark Branch NAACP and individual plaintiffs Katrina Hall, Keith Reeves, Lamara Wapples and Altarik White today announce the filing of an employment discrimination lawsuit against North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue. The suit charges North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue with implementing discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices against African Americans.

According to the complaint, North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue's discriminatory employment practices include its preference for recruiting and hiring new employees who are residents of the five predominantly white New Jersey municipalities of Guttenberg, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken and West New York. According to the 2000 census, those municipalities had a combined population of 195,000 residents, less than 5 percent of which are African American.

Due to the residency preference, plaintiffs allege that residents from the predominately black municipalities of Newark, East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City and Orange are denied the opportunity to join North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue. As result of the alleged discriminatory hiring practices, North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue employs 300 sworn firefighters, only one (0.3 percent of the total) is African American.

"North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue's residency preference should be eliminated because of its discriminatory impact on African Americans," said Interim NAACP General Counsel Angela Ciccolo. "The NAACP joined this lawsuit to ensure that all qualified candidates regardless of race and ethnicity have an equal opportunity to join North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue."

The suit contends that the fire and rescue company implements its discriminatory policies by:

--Refusing to recruit and hire African Americans on a non-discriminatory basis;

--Classifying candidates for employment in a discriminatory manner according to place of municipal residence and granting an absolute preference to residents of its service area over all qualified non-residents;

--Engaging in recruitment through a network of friends and relatives of current employees and other residents of the five municipality area;

--Failing or refusing to adopt objective, valid and non-discriminatory hiring procedures that do not disproportionately exclude African Americans from employment without evidence of job relatedness and business need;

--Failing or refusing to take appropriate action to correct the effects of past discriminatory practices.

Plaintiffs in the case are seeking relief in the form of a permanent injunction barring North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue from discriminating against African American firefighter candidates on the basis of race; a permanent injunction directing North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue to adopt and implement a vigorous recruitment program designed to attract qualified African American and other minorities in proportion to the labor market; cost of litigation, including reasonable attorneys' and expert fees.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the NAACP Legal Department, David Rose of Rose & Rose, P.C. in Washington, D.C. and David H. Ben-Asher of Rabner, Allcorn, Baumgart and Ben-Asher, P.C. in Montclair, N.J.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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