As reported by nj.com, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue’s residents-only hiring policy discriminates against blacks applying to be on the force, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. In issuing its decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Newark branch of the NAACP, which brought the initial lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of firefighter candidates Allen Wallace, Lamara Wapples, and Altarik White.
“The judges’ decision covered every issue…the argument that a broader hiring process would discriminate against Hispanics (in North Hudson) is thoroughly incorrect,” said one of the NAACP’s attorneys in the matter. ‘Obviously, we’re pleased.”
The Court noted that as of 2000, the population of North Hudson’s member municipalities North Bergen, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, and Union City was 69.6 percent Hispanic, 22.9 percent white non-Hispanic, and 3.4 percent African-American.
The attorney for North Hudson Regional said the department is “disappointed” by the Court’s ruling. “The decision is inherently unfair to NHRFR communities, particularly the large Hispanic population. There are various other federally mandated policies in other jurisdictions,” he said, adding the department will file for an “en banc” hearing.
A “en banc” hearing would be heard by all of the judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. An application for such a hearing must be filed within 14 days of the original ruling. If it is heard, the majority opinion rules. The only other arena for an appeal would be the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its ruling, the federal appeals court took into consideration reports from experts that in the tri-county area of Hudson, Bergen, and Essex, 37.4 percent of firefighters were African-American. Based on this percentage, 121 North Hudson Regional firefighters should be African-American, the court stated. Statewide, the percent of African-American firefighters is 20 percent. Based on that percentage, 65 North Hudson firefighters should be African-American, the court said.
Instead, out of 302 North Hudson Regional firefighters, 240 were white non-Hispanic, 58 were Hispanic, and only two were African-American, according to 2008 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) figures, the court said.