On October 2, 2008, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey decided the case of Figueroa v. City of Camden. In the case, plaintiffs, Camden firefighters who were on the eligible list for promotion to captain, alleged employment discrimination on the basis of race on account of defendants’ refusal to promote using the existing list and the announcement of a new test and new requirements.
The Court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against all defendants because plaintiffs failed a file a complaint with the EEOC. Moreover, plaintiffs’ claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 were dismissed because nothing in the pleadings indicated the unions were acting under color of state law, despite plaintiffs’ contention that the unions conspired with the other defendants to deprive them of their rights. Finally, the §1983 claims against the New Jersey Department of Personnel, its director of selection services, and the Camden chief operating officer were also dismissed because plaintiffs failed to identify any specific acts on their part that violated plaintiffs’ federally protected rights.
This case illustrates the importance of following the procedural requirements in filing an employment discrimination lawsuit as well as recognizing the elements required to sustain a successful cause of action. Employment discrimination lawsuits against governmental entities contain a myriad of procedural and substantive hurdles. As a result, public safety officers who intend on bringing such a cause of action should seek out competent, experienced legal representation in order to ensure their rights are protected. Without obtaining such representation, it is likely the claims will fail, either procedurally or substantively.