Operations

NYC to Pay $1.3M in Racial Bias Lawsuit

June 21, 2017

Photo via Flickr/Karen Neoh
Photo via Flickr/Karen Neoh

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) has agreed to pay $1.3 million to employees to resolve a lawsuit alleging a pattern of racial discrimination and retaliation within its Fleet Services unit from at least October 2007 through May 2016. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the consent decree on June 15.

The city offered monetary compensation to 14 individuals, including mechanics and a blacksmith, for back pay and compensatory damages ranging from $60,000 to $168,000. The city will also pay the complainant who brought this case to the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission $150,000 in compensatory damages and attorney’s fees. In addition, the city will also offer the complainant and two other minority candidates, all of whom were promoted by the city after the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed the city of its investigation, retroactive seniority benefits commensurate with having been promoted during the time period relevant to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that as of October 2007, the executive director of Fleet Services routinely and openly used racial epithets to describe African American employees. Upon an investigation that found the complaint true, that executive director retired and was replaced by his second-in-command, who had been complicit in the discrimination. Beginning in 2010, and throughout his tenure, the second executive director routinely and systematically excluded minorities from preferred assignments and special projects, exclusively choosing white candidates for the assignments that would provide the best opportunity for further advancement within Fleet Services.

Individuals who spoke out against the discriminatory practices were subjected to retaliatory conduct and threats by the second executive director, and several other members of Fleet Services’ executive leadership who witnessed one such threat failed to take any action.

As part of the consent decree, NYCDOT made several admissions, including that the executive directors used racial epithets to describe African Americans and took personnel actions motivated by race. The consent decree also requires the city to take steps to ensure that it complies with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its future promotional selection processes.

Fleet Services is a unit within NYCDOT that employs approximately 200 individuals in a range of trades, such as machinists, auto mechanics, electricians, blacksmiths, and engineers.

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