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Chicago Continues to Resist Justice for Firefighter Applicants

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Friday, January 14, 2011

In January 2011, LDF filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Lewis v. City of Chicago.  This is the latest round, following our unanimous victory in the Supreme Court, of our long-running litigation to secure justice for over 6,000 African-American applicants unfairly denied firefighter jobs with the Chicago Fire Department. 

The Supreme Court has returned the case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for further proceedings.  The appellate court has agreed to decide two narrow legal questions left open by the Supreme Court.  In our brief, LDF argues that Chicago cannot raise either of these issues now because it failed to do so when it should have at earlier stages of the case.  Therefore, those issues are legally waived.  In addition, and notwithstanding the City’s argument to the contrary, plaintiffs have already proven that each time the City used its discriminatory cutoff score to hire firefighters, it excluded too many African-American applicants (or, in legal terms, it had a “disparate impact” on African Americans).

LDF’s aim is to achieve the broadest remedy possible for the firefighter applicants.  In its own opening brief, however, the City indicated that it intends to fight hard to make the remedy as limited as possible.  The bulk of the City’s brief, however, improperly attempts to rehash arguments that it already litigated and lost in the Supreme Court

If the plaintiff class of firefighter applicants wins the latest arguments in the Court of Appeals, the case will be one step closer to obtaining meaningful relief for the firefighter applicants to remedy the City’s clear violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our core federal safeguard for equal employment opportunity.