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NYC School Custodians Achieve Settlement in Long-Running Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

African-American and Latino Custodians Will Keep Job Benefits

Yesterday, a proposed settlement agreement was filed in the U.S. District Court to resolve a long-running lawsuit that challenged the New York City Board of Education’s discriminatory policies for hiring public school custodians.  The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) represents ten African-American and Latino custodians who were denied permanent jobs and, instead, relegated to provisional positions, in which they did the work of permanent custodians but without many of the job benefits.

Under the settlement agreement, LDF’s clients – along with 49 other individuals who were improperly denied permanent positions because of their race, sex, or national origin – will keep the key job benefits they received under an earlier settlement in this case between the Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  The agreement also establishes a claims process to provide compensation for incumbent custodians if they lose a school assignment to any of the 59 individuals.

“This settlement is a positive resolution for the men and women who have waited more than a decade for resolution of this lawsuit,” said Josh Civin, Counsel to LDF’s Director of Litigation.  “We will continue to work to ensure that African Americans and other minorities have equal access to quality jobs with good benefits.”

Background on United States v. New York City Board of Education

 In 1996, DOJ filed a complaint against the Board of Education alleging that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and women were disproportionately excluded by the Board’s hiring process for permanent school custodian positions, with the result that most could only obtain provisional employment.  Provisional custodians do the same work as permanent custodians and are similarly qualified, but they lack many of the job benefits that permanent custodians enjoy.  For instance, they can be fired at any time and have no ability to obtain transfers and promotions.

The Board of Education settled with DOJ in 1999.  The Board agreed to give permanent positions with retroactive seniority to minority and female provisional custodians negatively affected by its hiring practices.  After a group of incumbent custodians challenged the lawfulness of the settlement, DOJ proposed revisions that would have reduced the remedies it had previously negotiated.  LDF intervened on behalf of African-American and Latino custodians whose permanent positions and seniority were at risk.

After many years of litigation, all of the parties have come together to resolve this long-running dispute and to move forward to promote equal opportunity in the workplace.  The settlement is subject to court approval.

Read the full settlement agreement.