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The Power of Now
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Gottschall granted an emergency motion to protect the
rights of a class of approximately 6,000 African-American firefighter applicants who recently
won a long-pending race discrimination case, Lewis v. City of Chicago. To address a significant
mailing error by the City of Chicago, Judge Gottschall extended key deadlines in the process for
hiring 111 African-American firefighters, as part of the remedy for the City’s illegal
The problem arose from a mailing the Court ordered the City to send out last month to the class
of African-American firefighter applicants who were denied a fair opportunity to compete for
firefighter jobs as a result of the City’s discriminatory practices. The mailing included an
“interest card” for class members to return in order to indicate whether they want to be
considered for one of the 111 firefighter jobs that the City is required to provide to class
members as a remedy for its illegal discrimination. Unfortunately, the City mistakenly stamped
the mailings with stale postage dates. As a result, class members risk having their interest cards
delivered late or not at all.
To remedy this problem, the Court yesterday ordered the City to send out new letters to class
members, informing them of the problem with the prior mailing and extending the deadline for
returning interest cards. Interest cards now must be received by October 17, 2011. After cards
are returned, a jobs lottery will be held on October 21, 2011, to select 750 possible candidates to
be screened for the firefighter jobs. Class members who have returned interest cards will have a
better chance of being selected in the jobs lottery. The extension of the deadlines for returning
interest cards will not delay the administration of the physical abilities tests for those selected
from the jobs lottery, which will begin on October 31, 2011.
Jay Readey, Executive Director of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, one of the
organizations representing the plaintiff class members said, “While the City’s mailing error is
unfortunate, the good news is that it will not ultimately delay justice for those who have waited
so long for relief from the City’s illegal discrimination.”
If class members receive a new mailing indicating that their interest card have not yet been
received, they should immediately fill out and mail in a new interest card if they want to
participate in the jobs lottery on October 21, 2011.
“It is essential that all class members have a full and fair opportunity to participate in the hiring
process ordered by the Court to remedy Chicago’s discriminatory employment practices,” said
John Payton, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, who
successfully argued on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court.